NEW YORK: The Boston Globe has accused a New York communications firm of making a cancer survivor the unwitting promoter of an anti-cancer drug being developed by the agency's former client.
In a sidebar to a feature on the woes of Pro-Pharmaceuticals, a small drug company in Newton, MA, the Globe said the cancer patient thought she was talking to a reporter when in fact she was speaking with a freelance writer working on a promotional story paid for by Pro-Pharmaceuticals.
The story, which the Globe said was sent out to Boston-area journalists last November, described the pain that the cancer patient, Melanie Bone, a Florida gynecologist, went through as a result of her chemotherapy. It said the side effects of the therapy could have been lessened by Pro's drug, Davanat-1.
The March 14 Globe sidebar article, which The Miami Herald headlined "Pharmaceutical Firm Spins Cancer Survival Story into Public Relations," said, "Dr. Bone had never heard of Pro-Pharmaceuticals until contacted by a Globe reporter."
Bone was also mentioned in a press release put out by Pro-Pharmaceuticals in December.
Pro's former PR agency, Investor Relations Group, defended the promotional story. In a PRWeek interview, founder and president Dian Griesel said it hired ARA Content to write an article on Davanat-1. ARA Content provides media outlets with feature articles, which are traditionally called "mat releases," paid for by the groups that commission them.
"ARA was hired to do a story for us, and that's the beginning and end of it," Griesel said. "There was no press release."
But Pro's website has a press release on Davanat-1 dated December 18, 2003, that mentions Bone and her story. The press release has Bone going even further than the paid-for story. It quotes her as saying: "The treatment sounds very promising. I'm looking forward to seeing the results of the human trials."
Griesel said Investor Relations Group no longer works with Pro. Anthony D. Squeglia, Pro's VP of IR, did not return a call seeking comment.
Fran Yoch, the VP of ARA Content, which is based in Hopkins, MN, also said she was unaware of any press release that mentions Bone.
Yoch said that when ARA got wind of the Globe story, it contacted Bone, who said she had no problem with the way her name was used in the paid-for story. "She knew what we were doing," Yoch said.
Jeffrey Krasner, the Globe writer, said in an interview that he spoke with Bone in November. "She said she had no idea that the interview was going to be used to promote a company or its drugs, and she was upset that that was how it was being used," he said.
A woman who answered the phone at Bone's West Palm Beach office said she was on vacation and was not available for comment.