Same Image Polisher Has Worked for FDA and Big Pharma

fda pr phrmaTurns out that the FDA and Big Pharma have more in common than we thought. They both tapped the same PR firm to improve their reputations.

Earlier this year the FDA hired Qorvis Communications, an influential PR group in Washington, to help mend the agency’s ailing image with a public awareness campaign. But since 2006 Qorvis has been working for PhRMA, Big Pharma’s principal trade group. Ooops.

PhRMA was surprised to find that out. Ken Johnson, a honcho there, told the WSJ’s Alicia Mundy that he wasn’t “aware that Qorvis had been doing work for the FDA. I would have expressed serious concerns.” As for the firm’s PhRMA work, Johnson said it was “only PR-101 outside Washington.”

Qorvis’s lead PR man on the FDA project, former House investigator Don Goldberg, told Mundy that there wasn’t a conflict because nobody from Qorvis working on the PhRMA account and a tobacco-company project with FDA implications had been involved in the campaing for the agency.

Qorvis has worked on the FDA Web site, done media training for FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach and other officials and developed videos for online use, Goldberg said.

The plot is even thicker when you start looking at the FDA’s method for awarding the PR contract. The Washington Post reported that Alaska Newspapers Inc., an Alaska Native corporation, was used to pass a no-bid contract through to Qorvis.

Chairman John Dingell of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is investigating. An FDA spokeswoman said the agency has suspended the contract. But, she said, there is no reason to believe that Alaska Newspapers acted improperly.

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