Comms firm challenged over drug endorsement

NEW YORK: The Boston Globe has accused a New York comms firm of making a cancer survivor the unwitting promoter of an anti-cancer drug being developed by the agency’s former client.

In an article on Massachussetts-based drug company Pro-Pharmaceuticals, the paper said the cancer patient thought she was talking to a reporter when she was in fact speaking to a freelance working on a story paid for by Pro.

The story, which the Globe said was sent to Boston-area journalists last November, described the pain the cancer patient, Melanie Bone, went through as a result of chemotherapy. It claimed the therapy’s side-effects could have been lessened by Pro’s drug, Davanat-1.

But according to the Globe on 14 March, 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 on its website in December 2003.

Dian Griesel, founder and president of Pro’s former PR agency – Investor Relations Group – told PRWeek US that it hired ARA Content to write an article on Davanat-1 which could be placed in the media.

‘ARA was hired to do a story for us, and that’s the beginning and the end of it,’ Griesel said. ‘There was no press release.’

The disputed press release has Bone going 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.’

Pro did not return a call seeking comment while ARA Content vice president Fran Yoch also said she was unaware of any release mentioning Bone.

Bone was said to have had no problem with the way her name was used. She was unavailable for comment.

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