The big story from the Pharm Country this week is ghostwriting, in the wake of reports that some of the papers published about Vioxx were penned by Merck but attributed to physician authors.  If you haven’t seen the story, you need not look very far — it’s everywhere.  The Baltimore Sun and CNN here, plus some more in an earlier blog post.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), sponsor of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, wasted no time writing Merck a letter.

As FDA deadline approaches, so do lobbyists

And as the deadline for public comment on the FDA’s proposal to loosen restrictions on off-label marketing materials, pharma lobbyists descend on Washington.  The story is in the Wall Street Journal.  The approaching guidance would allow pharmaceutical salespeople to distribute journal articles about off-label uses of their drugs to doctors – but this review of Neurontin off-label use (spoiler alert: it’s dismal) is a good case study in why some worry about the legalization of such off-label promotion.

Massachusetts Senate cost control bill moves to House

In Massachusetts, the state Senate has passed a comprehensive cost-control bill that includes a gifts ban and academic detailing provision.  Now it moves on to the House.

But not before veteran pharma champion and biotech director Thomas Stossel MD of Harvard Medical School and co-writer and Harvard doc Dennis Ausiello MD got their word on the gift ban in.

“We believe that the best approach to optimize cost effectiveness of product prescribing is to promote more, not less, interaction among all stakeholders involved in health-care delivery, including company marketing reps,” Stossel and Ausiello wrote in the Boston Herald.

Hmm.  A call for more interaction among all stakeholders + a state shortage of primary care docs = Perhaps the reps could see patients themselves, to help the docs out?

We thought we were just poking fun, till we saw this post on Pharmalot – it’s almost happening! In Australia, medical practices have started to ask pharmaceutical companies to help with payroll for their staff.   A total pigs-on-the-runway moment for PostScript.

Pharmalot and the HealthBlog are really good about pointing out relevant ties to industry that may color the opinion columns and letters of pharma’s more prolific defenders like Stossel, which is good, because it seems the original publisher of those pieces rarely get disclosure of his industry ties right on the first try….

The Vytorin Connections

Part of Schering-Plough’s clean-up team for the Vytorin mess is on the board of the New York chapter of the American Heart Association,  as is one of S-P’s compliance officials, reports Pharmalot.  While consumer groups like the AHA taking funding from pharmaceutical companies is nothing new, Pharmalot says there are an awful lot of dots to connect in this picture.

On the street where you live

All politics are local, and now so are drug ads, like this Zyrtec pull-away flyer.  Streetcorner DTC? From what we know about the size of pharma’s marketing budget, we’d say this is cutting more than a few street corners.