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Cancer Society Sells Name in Exclusive Endorsements

August 17, 1996|From Associated Press

The American Cancer Society is selling its name to two corporate giants, offering an exclusive endorsement to NicoDerm anti-smoking patches and Florida orange juice for at least $4 million in sales royalties.

Ethics watchdogs protested the endorsements Friday, saying the society may seriously hurt its credibility with the public.

"If they want to endorse products, they should do it in the spirit of an educational agency, not as a paid shill," said Paul Root Wolpe of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

The deals--part of a rising trend of partnerships between nonprofit groups and companies--will provide the society with cash needed to boost its cancer-fighting programs at a time when donations have become stagnant. They also give the marketers of these products instant credibility through association with one of the nation's most respected health groups.

Friday's deal was announced in conjunction with the national introduction of NicoDerm, the second nicotine patch to be made available over the counter.

SmithKline Beecham, the big British-based drug manufacturer, will pay the cancer society at least $1 million per year in sales royalties for three years. In exchange, the society's logo will appear on NicoDerm boxes and in advertising, along with a reference to the two as partners in promoting smoking cessation.

In a similar deal, the Florida citrus marketers association has agreed to pay the society at least $1 million for one year.

"After very serious consideration and review, we determined that companies that are producing products that support the missions or programs of the American Cancer Society would be acceptable business partners for us," said society spokeswoman Elizabeth Bridgers.

Nicotine patches, worn on the arm, send nicotine into a smoker's body gradually, helping stave off the craving for cigarettes. They were mediocre sales performers as prescription-only products but are now, as a nonprescription product, expected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales among the 46 million American smokers trying to quit.

As for orange juice, Bridgers said drinking it can be part of a healthful diet and that "eating healthy is one of the major preventive measures against cancer."

Bridgers said the total of donations the society receives to support its $427-million annual budget has been stagnant for two years.

Ethicists argue that the society is taking a big risk in signing an exclusive deal with SmithKline because other nicotine patches may come along that work better.

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