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ABA issues new model ethics rules targeting Internet marketing

As you may know, the ABA House of Delegates adopted a resolution in August modifying the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The intent of the resolution was clear: to provide more guidance (or impose more structure) on attorney marketing on the Internet.

It will take a while for the exact impact of the changes in rules to be known. The changes may not have much of an effect, or they may have a broader reach then one would think upon first reading a news article about the changes in attorney ethics rules.

I’ve started a series of posts on my attorney marketing blog discussing the ABA changes. Part 1 of the attorney advertising ethics rule series is already up, and has a link to the ABA resolution modifying the rules. Comments are open, so you are welcome to share your opinions on the attorney marketing blog, or the Attorney Marketing Online Facebook Page.

Lawyers can’t be Luddites, ABA House of Delegates says

Are you a Luddite? Are your law partners Luddites? If so, the ABA House of Delegates just fired a warning shot across your bow.

Let’s first start with the definition of Luddite, a term with which some are unfamiliar.

Cultural Dictionary

Luddites  [lud-eyets)] (noun)

Opponents of the introduction of labor-saving machinery. The original Luddites, followers of a legendary Ned Ludd, were British laborers of the early nineteenth century who smashed textile-making machines that threatened their jobs.

Note : Contemporary opponents of technological change are sometimes called Luddites.

About six months ago I wrote a post titled “Are most lawyers Luddites?” It looks as if some members of the ABA House of Delegates have been asking the same question. [Read more…]

FTC: No payola (without disclosure) for bloggers or other members of social media

The FTC finally got around to issuing guidelines for bloggers and “guerrilla marketers” who hype products in exchange for products or money.  If you have the time and interest, or if you need something to read before going to sleep, check out the 81-page- long Text of the Federal Register Notice.

Adweek notes: “The FTC chose not to make a distinction between professional bloggers and amateurs. It also does not differentiate between paying cash and providing product samples.  Violators face fines of up to $11,000 per infraction.”

How low will Big Pharma go to make a buck?

I continue to be amazed at the depths to which some drug companies will stoop to make a dollar (okay, so it’s more like a few billion dollars).  Just yesterday Bloomberg reported that Pfizer agreed to a $1.2 billion criminal fine (the largest in U.S. history) and a felony plea by a subsidiary to settle Justice Department charges that Pfizer was guilty of fraud in marketing drugs.  The $1.2 billion was merely part of the total $2.3 billion in fines that Pfizer agreed to pay.  Oh yeah, Pfizer also entered into a five- year “integrity agreement” with the Health and Human Services Department as well.

Why in the world does the world’s largest drug manufacturer have to sign an “integrity agreement?”  Maybe it’s because it’s the settlement was the fourth with Pfizer or a subsidiary since 2002. The previous three agreements settled criminal or civil charges involving distribution and marketing or Lipitor, Neurontin and Genotropin and resulted in combined payments of $513 million.

Then today, BNET reports that the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging released a study showing that Forest Labs budgeted $100,000 for ghostwriting articles about its antidepressant Lexapro.  The Justice Department sued Forest in February for allegedly promoting its anti-depressants for children without FDA approval, and paying kickbacks to doctors to encourage prescriptions.  BNET also reported that Forest expected to pay about $100,000 to get Emory University on its payroll.

The New York Times reported that Forest wanted 2,000 docs on its payroll, at about $17,350 each.  The Times reported that a Forest document said “the company planned to spend $34.7 million to pay 2,000 psychiatrists and primary care doctors to deliver 15,000 marketing lectures to their peers in one year.”

I’ve represented injured consumers, and the families of deceased consumers, who have been victimized by Big Pharma’s greed, so I’m not shocked that drug companies are willing to sell drugs that harm and kill people in order to make money.  I’ve always believed that if you’re willing to do that, then you’ll probably lie, cheat and steal to make money.  I’ll admit to being surprised, however, that medical integrity sells for only $17,500.

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