Reading the fine print

Glad we read the Boston Globe this week, where we stumbled across this great opinion piece by internal medicine resident Dr. Michael Hochman, who says that recent revelations about pharmaceutical companies ability to bury unfavorable studies (or just write better ones themselves) have got him and his colleagues at the Cambridge Health Alliance thinking twice about the sizeable chunk of industry-funded research in the medical literature.

“One of the more experienced doctors I work with, for example, told me that he no longer views industry-funded research as an unbiased source of information but rather treats these studies like advertisements for pharmaceutical products,” Hochman writes.

Though he says he’s encouraged by recent changes to limit marketing influence on good medicine, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association’s pledge to exorcise itself of ghostwriters, and Boston University School of Medicine’s recent introduction of strong policies that ban industry gifts and payments, he will “rely less heavily on studies funded by pharmaceutical companies when making decisions about my patients. And when I do read industry-funded studies, I will use the skeptical mindset I developed during my medical training not only to evaluate the study methods but also to consider the motives of the researchers involved.”

After the Wire, Under the Arch: med school policies in perspective

The Baltimore Sun ran this comprehensive article on the AAMC recommendations and the state of pharmaceutical conflict-of-interest work at the state, federal, and academic medical center level.  According to the Sun, “The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland allow doctors and researchers to accept gifts that have “educational value” and to earn money for company-sponsored speeches. Officials at both schools say the policies are under discussion and might be tightened in response to the new AAMC guidelines.”

Here’s another good omnibus article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the state of industry influence on academic medicine – and the effect of the AMSA Pharmfree Scorecard last year.

According to the Post-Dispatch, after the scorecard came out “Washington University adopted a policy to ban representatives from interacting with students without faculty supervision. Among other rules, representatives are barred from bringing food on campus.”

A second year medical school put it this way: “By the time I’m done, I’ll have paid a couple hundred thousand dollars for my medical education,” she told the Post-Dispatch.  “I think I’ll be well-qualified enough to educate myself.”

And the accompanying editorial says that it’s no coincidence that “Americans spent $216 billion on prescription drugs in 2006, an increase of nearly 80 percent over the $121 billion spent in 2000.

“The simple truth is that when drug and medical device makers offer a free lunch, the rest of us pay the bill.”

American College of Physicians mag looks at COI policies

Here’s a great look at what AMCs are doing about industry influence from a professional perspective.  The ACP Hospitalist talks with RxP and a whole starting line-up worth of adminstrators who have taken their organizations pharm free, including BUSM’s Dr. David Coleman, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center associate dean Dr. Barbara Barnes, and SMDC Health System’s Dr. Kenneth Irons, who took the out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach offshore, orchestrating the shipment of all his clinics’ pharma gizmos to Cameroon earlier this year.

In Heinz sight

And for anyone who doubts that pharmaceuticals have gotten away from the science in favor of lifestyle marketing campaigns run by brand-savvy MBAs, we bring you this nugget, courtesy of the WSJ Health Blog.