Vermont docs got $2.9 million from drugmakers in ’08

Drug companies spent $2.9 million on payments to health care professionals, hospitals, universities and clinics in Vermont last year, according to a report released by the Vermont Attorney General’s office Wednesday. Payments related to drugs to treat depression and ADHD fell off as a proportion of total marketing payments, while those to promote diabetes and hypertension drugs increased.

The state law that requires companies to disclose payments to health care providers allows the companies to designate payments as trade secrets, effectively hiding the details of those payments from the public.  Payments designated as trade secrets jumped from 72% to 83% of the value of all reported payments between FY 2007 and FY 2008.  However, the proportion of all disclosed information fields declared trade secrets – the details of which may not be shared with the public – jumped from 41% to 74% between FY 2007 and FY 2008. A bill pending in the Vermont Legislature would eliminate the trade secret exemption, similar to laws in Minnesota and Massachusetts.

More from the Associated Press and the WSJ Health Blog.

Googleable compliance

And today the New York Times has this follow-up about how drug companies are changing tack to respond to FDA warning letters that charged companies were not providing sufficient risk-disclosure information on Google search ads, and that the ads were to be pulled down.

The companies say that the 95-word limit on the ads makes it impossible to disclosure the info the FDA says that they must, and are now using generic-sounding links with redirects to the brand-name page. According to the Times, Google “will not let any advertiser except for pharmaceutical companies use this kind of redirecting link.”

NYC detailers pound pavement for public health causes

Earlier this week, the Times reported that New York City is using academic detailing to get out the word on six different public health campaigns, from everything to domestic violence prevention to flu vaccines. A growing number of states and regions have started to use the method, which sends trained health professionals into doctors’ offices with unbiased information about drugs in the same way pharma reps make office calls.  Congress is considering a bill now, the Independent Drug Education and Outreach Act, that would provide resources for states and medical centers to start academic detailing programs of their own.

Psaty on COI, clinical trial bias

And from way back last weekend, a good how-can-you-tell story in The Macon Daily on medical conflicts of interest. Drug safety expert Dr. Bruce Psaty, who takes no money from the pharmaceutical industry, told the paper that in the absence of a clinical trials system funded entirely by the public, there are some flags people can look for in trials that may point to clinical bias.

“Was the question a good question? Did they set the study up right? Did they use the weakest possible comparator to make a drug look good in a trial?” he said. Psaty spoke about the FDA at the Prescription Project conference last year.