A double-issue of the RxP Weekly Reader this week, as PostScript heads down to D.C. for a conference. Happy Reading.  

“Not it” say NIH, universities on tracking researcher COI

A new report from the Office of the Inspector General of Department of Health and Human Services says that the National Institutes of Health are doing not a whole lot to monitor conflicts of interest among grant recipients at universities, despite the fact that such ‘extramural’ researchers receive 80 percent of the agency’s $29 billion budget. 

Conflict of interest reports from researchers will be required come March 1, but neither the NIH nor the AAMC is keen on taking a larger role in such COI oversight.

Read more at the New York Times, Inside Higher Ed, GoozNews, and the response from the AAMC at Medical News Today.

Spring cleaning in January

A private health system in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin did some spring cleaning a little early, chucking more than 18,000 pharma freebies from its 4 hospitals and 17 clinics.  The move by SMDC health systems represents one of the biggest clean sweeps of pharma influence among private health providers since Kaiser Permanente instituted tougher conflict-of-interest policies in 2005.   

“We’re part of a leading trend that’s trying to get away from the pharmaceutical companies essentially controlling what’s prescribed in this country,” Dr. Kenneth Irons, chief of community clinics for SMDC told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “This shows people we’re not in the pharmaceutical companies’ back pockets.”

RxP assistant director Marcia Hams talks to the AP about what this means in the big picture of clinics and medical centers that are starting to put some space between themselves and the drug reps.

and farther east…

The Lewiston Sun-Journal looks at one such hospital, Franklin Memorial, and the changes that have come with the new policy.  Here, the Sun-Journal compares Franklin with other Maine hospitals. 

Left coast Rx legislation considered

And The Olympian reports on a set of bills being supported by the Washington Coalition for Prescribing Integrity, a group of doctors, lawmakers and advocates. The six bills, which have been heard bicamerally in the health care committees, would create a statewide academic detailing program, require public disclosure of all gifts to health care practitioners from pharmaceutical vendors, and restrict prescriber data-mining.

and on the Eastern Seaboard…

A group of advocates for lower prescription drug costs announced the new Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition at the State House. The coalition, spearheaded by Health Care for All, will work to support policy change that will limit undue industry marketing by banning gifts to physicians, prohibiting prescription data-mining, and provide doctors with academic detailing resources. State Senators Jim Marzilli and Mark Montigny, key players in the state’s health reform efforts, spoke in favor of the coalition’s goals.

The group includes the Prescription Project, AARP of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Senior Action Group, National Physicians Alliance, Neighborhood Health Plan and others. 

 For more information, read coverage in the Boston Globe, Patriot-Ledger, and the MPRC news release here.

Here’s another article on data-mining – this time from the ‘PhillyBurbs.com.’ [Which, we admit, is faster to type than the Bucks County Courier Times.]

Rep repellent education, courtesy of Pfizer

Businessweek takes a look at Adriane Fugh-Berman’s PharmedOut and Elissa Ladd’s nurse practitioner education program, efforts both aimed to increase awareness of the temptations of pharma reps among future medical practitioners.

Fugh-Berman and Ladd were both recipients of Consumer and Prescriber Grants awarded in a 2004 settlement with Warner-Lambert of Pfizer over off-label marketing of Neurontin.  

FDA issues public health advisory – no cough and cold meds for under-2s 

The FDA issued a formal public health advisory last week: don’t give your infants or toddlers pediatric cough-and-cold medications, because they are risky and have the potential for dangerous overdoses.  The statement follows advisory committee meetings last October, when committee members voted that the drugs were not effective for children under age 6.  Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein told the AP that the next step is to get the FDA to assess safety and efficacy of these drugs for children under 12. 

Medicate…Medigate? The pharma tapes  The Philadelphia Inquirer frames the new taping on physician-patient conversations for commercial use as an entrepreneurial lightbulb.  But the scheme dreamed up by two former pharma reps who now run Verilogue, makes prescriber data-mining look like old-fashioned phone-shoe espionage. Doctors are being asked – and permitting – their conversations with patients to be taped for sale.   “To attract physicians,” the Inquirer reports, “the company sent e-mails and faxes, targeting specialty doctors, such as oncologists and psychiatrists who are paid for their time. The company said the fee is similar to stipends paid to medical investigators in other clinical research.” 

The taped talks, then scrubbed of identifiable information by Verilogue, are sold to pharmaceutical companies so they can learn more about the patient-doctor conversation, a dialogue which seems to grow less confidential and more valuable by the day. 

No pain, no gain

The New York Times reports that there is still a lot of debate over the existence fibromyalgia as a diagnosable disease, but that didn’t hinder the sales pitch of Lyrica, the first FDA-approved drug for the nebulous pain condition.  Pfizer spent $46 million ads for the fibromyalgia drug in the first nine months of 2007.  

The cost of keeping a pharma rep

This Pharmalot post based on a Marketwire report says on the average cost of a primary care pharmaceutical sales rep has trended up in recent years, and is now at $175,000 per rep (which includes samples). Food for thought: the average salary for a primary care internist is around $150,000, and a little less for a family practice doc.   

And in closing, the Macy Foundation released this executive summary of a report to be released later this year. The report calls for a complete separation of corporate interests from CME. If you’ve stayed up late worrying about industry supported-symposia, or ever pondered the fate of CME at the hands of Medical Education and Communication Companies (MECCs) and pharmaceutical company ghostwriters recently, this is a must read.