However, BCA has encountered some pushback. The group says that several billboard companies that do business in Indianapolis, where Lilly is headquartered, have refused to accept its ad, which reads: "Eli Lilly is making us sick. Tell them to stop." A spokeswoman for BCA, which wants Lilly to stop making Posilac, says local and national billboard companies, such as Lamar Outdoor Advertising and ClearChannel, balked after seeing the ad. One company cited was Lamar Outdoor Advertising. We have sought comment and will update you with any reply.
"They all told us it was too political," says BCA spokeswoman Angela Wall. "And this raises a huge issue. A pharmaceutical company can manufacture an artificial growth hormone that puts a woman's health at risk, but our group can't put a billboard in the same town as the company. Who owns the mouthpiece when it comes to public health?" "And by the way, they also sell a medication for treating breast cancer such as Evista (which is actually approved to reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis). They've got something linked to causing cancer, and also sell something to treat cancer. It's kind of a perfect profic cycle for a company."
UPDATE: We spoke with Chris Iversen, the vp and general manager, at Lamar Outdoor Advertising, who tells us that BCA asked for free space and that Lamar agreed, but then objected to the accuracy of the claim that 'Lilly Is Making Us Sick.'
"We were first contacted by this group with the understanding that it was a breast cancer awareness message. When we saw the copy, we saw it was not an anti-cancer message, but more of an activist message targeting Lilly and a certain type of drug they produce. We support all types of messages, but we also reserve the right to reject any copy if it's misleading fraudulent or deceptive. So we asked for supporting evidence that Lilly is making us sick.
"At that point, we told them your message is more of an editorial message and we would charge you for the space." The cost: $1,500 for one month. "But they never got back to us. This has more to do with fact that the copy was not something we could approve, and nothing to do with Lilly as an employer or large corporate citizen. I have not had one conversation with anyone at Lilly before or after their request. I think it's horribly misleading when they tell the press we denied them an opportunity to advertise on our billboard. It's untrue." AND HERE IS ANOTHER UPDATE: On Nov. 5, BCA sent us a copy of a Sept. 8 email to a Lamar sales manager indicating the group planned to run a message about its Milking Cancer campaign against Lilly and the sell of its artificial growth hormone. However, the email did not include the phrase: Lilly is making us sick.
For its part, Lilly says it did not contact any billboard company and has denied its product causes any risk. And others also dispute a cancer link. For instance, two agencies in the state of Washington, which has a good number of dairy cow farmers, run this site to debunk criticism and the American Cancer Society maintains a definitive link has not been established (look here). Nonetheless, several large retailers, notably Wal-Mart, Kroger and Costco, say they won't sell dairy products made from cows containg the hormones, given the growing publicity.