Boston Globe coverage of the progress of the Massachusetts health cost containment and quality bill, which was debated in the House yesterday, runneth over –

The gist

The letters

Lisa Kaplan Howe, Health Care for All

Brian Hurley, American Medical Student Association

The outcome

Now the omnibus bill (56 sections!) goes to conference, where the Sen. President’s version including a complete gift ban, disclosure and academic detailing should keep things interesting.

Singing the PhRMA Code Blues

This week, the head of a Kaiser Permanente’s physician network, the largest of its kind in the U.S., spoke out against the revised PhRMA code in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle, calling it “nothing more than window dressing,” and “a weak, transparent move by an industry that is pretending to take strong action.”

Dr. Pearl, CEO and executive director of The Permanente Medical Group, a 6000-physician network that serves 3.3 million patients in northern California and abides its own pharmfree code, said that instead of relying on the profit-driven drug industry to police itself, physicians must collectively take responsibility for limiting the influence of pharmaceutical marketing on the medicine they practice, writing that “we cannot abdicate our responsibility as professionals – whose duty is to put patients’ interest first – by relying on the industry that benefits from those inducements to self-regulate.”

Rx realignment

Times of London columnist Carl Mortished says that in a convergence unseen in ElectionLand in recent years, both presumptive U.S. presidential candidates have angled to take on big Pharma: Obama has talked about allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and both he and McCain have been seen stumping drug reimportation, which has had banana-peel traction under the current administration.

Though the Times online headline, “Barack Obama and John McCain go to war with Big Pharma” probably overstates things a bit, the article takes a good look at how U.S. politics may feed and shape bigger Western pharma trends.

Legislative affairs

As part of his continuing inquiry into medical conflicts of interest and financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has asked the American Psychiatric Association to submit to him its financial statements, citing concern that the degree of support the specialty society receives from commercial interests is causing field-wide bias.

Here’s coverage in the New York Times, and an opinion piece in the Boston Globe by former New England Journal of Medicine editor Dr. Arnold S. Relman discussing the proper source of incentives in academic research.

And in the San Francisco Chronicle, Dr. Lawrence Diller, a UCSF-affiliated pediatrician writes:

“The Fortune 500 drug companies, by their sheer economic clout, have become the single most dominant influence in our health care system. The ambiguities of children’s mental health and illness make child psychiatry the most vulnerable branch of medicine open to such influence.”

Maple Leaf Rag

The Canadians have found us! Proof in the pages of this month’s Canadian Medical Association Journal.  Thanks, Canada. We’ll watch hockey this year, promise.

And these last two are from the Wall Street Journal Healthblog. The first told us more than we knew about PhRMA chief Billy Tauzin and his history on the Hill, and the second – well, though the Healthblog wasn’t first to pick it up, we liked the desk-cowering image: Turns out injury-by-spacecraft has its own diagnostic code.

Lends a whole new meaning to Universal health care.