UPDATE: AstraZeneca & Daiichi rebuff Vermont governor's call to pull OIC Super Bowl ad
UPDATE: Stat News reported on Wednesday that AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo had declined to acquiesce to Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin's (D) request to pull down an opioid induced constipation (OIC) ad meant to boost the drug Movantik.
"[O]ur message encourages a clinically important conversation about OIC between patients and their doctors, which may also facilitate a broader discussion about safe and appropriate opioid use," wrote AZ in a letter to Shumlin. "While these discussions are separate and distinct, both are important for patients and their families."
Daiichi told Stat through a spokesperson that it is still "committed to raising awareness" about opioid addiction, but gave no indication that the ad would be taken down.
- Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) on Thursday wrote a letter to drugmakers AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo decrying the companies' ad for the opioid induced constipation (OIC) therapy Movantik and calling for the ad to be pulled from the airwaves. (UPDATED ABOVE)
- Several critics have slammed the ad since it aired during Super Bowl 50 game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers this past Sunday, arguing that it indirectly promotes opioid use during a period of burgeoning addiction-related deaths.
- In 2014, Shumlin dedicated his entire State of the State address to confronting the ongoing opioid addiction crisis which has taken root in New England and the Northeast U.S..
The stat that's likely looming large with Shumlin is that more than 28,000 Americans died from events related to prescription opioid addiction in 2014. Vermont and other Northeastern states have been particularly devastated by the crisis.
"Like many Americans, I was baffled by the commercial your companies paid an estimated $10 million to air during the Super Bowl," wrote Shumlin in his letter. "In the midst of America’s opiate and heroin addiction crisis the advertisement was not only poorly timed, it was a shameful attempt to exploit that crisis to boost your companies’ profits.
"The irrational exuberance with which opiates are handed out in America is driving the addiction crisis in this country. Now is the time to change that, not attempt to further normalize long-term opiate use by advertising a drug to help people take even more opiates."
Other critics, including spokespeople from the White House, have argued that advertising should focus on access to treatment for addicts, rather than commercials which may wind up promoting opioid use. President Barack Obama recently announced a more than $1 billion plan to fight opiate addiction.
On the flip side, pain patient advocates note that there are many Americans who truly do suffer from the GI effects of painkillers that they legitimately need to use. Some advocates have also praised the presence of the gut drug ads (including for Valeant's IBS med Xifaxan) as a destigmatizing moment in Super Bowl advertising.
"We were pleased to see the Xifaxan and Movantik ads," said Michael Smith, vice president of G-PACT, a non-profit organization focused on advocacy for patients who suffer from digestive tract paralysis-related conditions, such as gastroparesis, chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction, and colonic inertia, in an interview with BioPharma Dive.