No, we don't mean marijuana on the street, but the brand-name drugs
that are so profitable to the pharmaceutical industry. We found out today that an SEIU local is promoting Lipitor, the cholesterol drug, to doctors in its health plan. We'd like
readers' help to find out how widespread this practice is, in either
union or employer health plans. You can respond in the comments section
below, or with a confidential e-mail to [email protected] .

Here's the story, from the Century Foundation's Health Beat blog (read the full article here):

"A couple of weeks ago Dr.  Alicia Fernandez, an associate professor
of clinical medicine at UC San Francisco, received a very unusual
letter from The International Association of EMTS and Paramedics, an
affiliate of The National Association of Government Employees
(IAEP/SEIU).

"The letter began by noting that Fernandez is part of the union’s
approved physician network, and then launched into what can only be
described as a shameless sales pitch for Lipitor, Pfizer’s blockbuster
cholesterol-lowering drug. ...

"Then, the endorsement: 'Lipitor is available to our members through their prescription plan. IAEP leadership stands behind LIPITOR as the lipid-lowering agent of choice when it is prescribed by a physician.' 

The author, Maggie Mahar, notes that the marketing pitch doesn't
even mention Lipitor's worst side effects (including a dementia-like
effect). It certainly doesn't mention recent studies indicating that
statin drugs, including Lipitor, appear to be vastly overprescribed.

But the big question is: What's a union doing flogging pharmaceuticals for Pfizer? Did money change hands?

Of
course, this the same SEIU that joined forces with Wal-Mart on the
health care debate and endorsed a bad health reform bill in California
in exchange for clauses that would bring the union thousands of
members, pay the union to do training and raise pay for other members.
It's also the same SEIU that cut bad deals for nursing home workers by
going over their heads to executives of for-profit chains.

If one SEIU union is advertising drugs, is this a budding new marketing strategy for Big Pharma? Inquiring minds want to know.