Works-in-progress: Globe looks at Massachusetts AMCs

This week started with an editorial in the Boston Globe about Massachusetts medical centers that have tackled conflict of interest, those that haven’t, and those that are working on it.

Bearcats in whitecoats

In keeping with the old maxim, “Friday news is good news,” the University of Cincinnati medical school announced new conflict of interest policies last Friday. According to this story in Business Courier of Cincinnati, industry support for UC research jumped a whopping 40 percent in 2007. university-of-cincinnati.jpg

“We have to have an environment where the physicians are functioning free of the influence of the pharmaceutical industry in their patient care and prescribing, and anything short of that really doesn’t work,” said Dr. David Stern, dean of UC’s College of Medicine.

Granting Grassley’s wishes

USA Today looks at Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) recent entreaties to 15 drug makers, urging them to publish their educational grant spending as Eli Lilly began doing last year on a public website.  Pfizer has already announced its plans to make such information publicly available in the future.

“We’re all struggling with how much to reveal,” said Cathryn Clary, a vice president at Pfizer. “Stay tuned.”

Allan Coukell and David Rothman, both members of the Prescription Project, weigh in on Grassley’s investigations and the alignment of Lilly’s grants with its vested corporate interests.


Senators probe devicemaker payments

And Grassley’s cosponsor on the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, Sen. Herb Kohl, held a hearing Wednesday on medical device companies and payments they make to physicians.

Lot’s more in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) and this terrific front row coverage in the BNA.

Evergreen state sends privacy bill to House

washingtonstate.jpgLast week, the Washington State Senate passed a bill that would ban the sale of prescription data for marketing purposes.  SB 6241, which would limit the practice commonly called data-mining, passed 26-22, and now faces the House vote, which must happen before March 8.

In follow-up coverage, this story appeared in the Tacoma News-Tribune, and Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur called data-mining “nothing but a wider opening on our proverbial hospital gown.” Brodeur writes a great column, but leaves you with the odd sense you’re reading a high school playbill with her closing line: “She buys her drugs from Rusty.”

Alas poor Jarvik – the denouement


In what we hope is Act V of the Pfizer tragicomedy, the drug giant announced it’s pulling its Lipitor ads featuring Robert Jarvik, TV doc, rowing hopeful, and inventor of the artificial heart.  Be sure to read the WSJ Healthblog post on Jarvik’s post-ad plea for credibility, which reads a lot like an essay we had to write once: How I Spent my Summer Vacation.  But Jarvik adds a twist …. He’s talking about his summer vacations 45 years ago.

No shortage of coverage, so click away:

New York Times Kaiser Network Time Bloomberg ABC News  

Hugs, not drugs

Here’s another blog-hug for pharma champion and law professor Paul Rubin, who penned this paean to Big Rx in Forbes earlier this month.  Essays and yeays praising Rubin’s “excellent column” aren’t hard to come by, but PostScript chose this one for its ridiculous conflict-of-interest disclosure at the end.  (Hey, it’s the longest one of those we’ve seen from a libertarian in awhile – even if it is tongue-in-cheek.)

And for an antidote to the Paul Rubin lovefest above, try Howard Brody’s take on health economists that don’t bother to factor in the health.

Clarence Thomas, meet the FDA


In the same week that Clarence Thomas’s two years of zipped lips during oral arguments made the news, Eye on the FDA blog noted the peculiar silence of the long-suffering drug agency under the continuing barrage of criticism.

Blogger Mark Senak, an industry consultant who helps companies get their affairs in order before going to the FDA, notes that the FDA website houses only two speeches from all of 2007, and one from 2008.  Not a lot, considering there are near-weekly reports on the FDA’s underfunded, underperforming track record.