PhRMA announces changes to marketing code

The main trade association of the drug industry, Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, announced today it is revising its voluntary code ‘Interactions with Healthcare Professionals’ to ban small gifts such as pens, mugs, stethoscopes, and impose bigger suggested limits on support for travel, Continuing Medical Education, and consultants. [For you seeing-is-believing types, check the revised code out here.]

According to the New York Times, the new code “provides no definite limits on the millions of dollars spent on speaking and consulting arrangements that drug makers have forged with tens of thousands of doctors. Nor does it ban the routine provision of office breakfasts and lunches, or the occasional invitation to educational dinners at fancy restaurants.”

Though the industry’s Code till now has been unenforceable and vague, the announcement of the change, a day after the UK drugmakers association adopted new provisions, may change the game for state lawmakers considering a ban on gifts to physicians. Such a ban is currently under review by Massachusetts state lawmakers, and is already on the books in Minnesota.

“A voluntary restriction on the small gifts used by pharmaceutical companies to curry favor with doctors is a step in the right direction, ” said Rob Restuccia in a Prescription Project statement on the Code revisions, and added that the change “is an important complement to efforts by state and federal policymakers to limit industry marketing.”

And it’s time to get your own pens, docs, says the droller Wall Street Journal Health Blog.

Salesforce in the Green Mountain state grows

Pharmalot’s Ed Silverman sums up the latest numbers from Vermont’s pharma payment disclosure law: “A total of 84 drugmakers spent more than $3 million dollars in Vermont in fiscal 2007 to influence sales, a 33 percent increase over the previous year and a 42 percent jump from two years ago, according to a report issued by the state’s attorney general.”  Four out of the five of the top marketed drugs in the Green Mountain State are used to treat ADHD or depression, according to the report.

Acronym Soup

This Inside Higher Ed article looks at the path toward greater federal regulation of conflicts of interest among academic researchers, some pending legislation on the Hill that might change the laws around financial disclosure of those funded by NIH grants, and some of the milestones (and Senators) that got us here.

From the glad-someone-caught-it dept.

Howard Brody over at the Hooked blog spotted this exchange between former NEJM editor Marcia Angell and the Manhattan Institute’s Benjamin Zycher in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. When Mr. Zycher opinioned in the Journal that Big Pharma is an indispensable piece of the research machine, Dr. Angell cries foul on industry credit-taking for what she writes is often publicly-funded university research that gets licensed (and profits) later.

It’s a slugfest, and Brody is the best sort of bystander, polite but not deferent, someone who knows a ball from a strike before the umpire moves, and doesn’t spill nachos on your feet in the fourth.

AMSA applause

 width=And a few RxP allies at the American Medical Student Association got a tip of the hat and a little cash to boot for their notable work in AMSA’s PharmFree program, in the form of The Medical Letter-AMSA PharmFree Scholarships. Congratulations Jonas, Gabe, and Lekshmi.

Keep on keepin’ on – the Lipitor bump

And in a predictable industry find, the good folks who bring you Lipitor found in a study published in the July issue of Current Medical Research and Opinion – surprise! – patients are more likely to stay on Lipitor than its competitor class of  (cheaper) simvastatins. The text: good news for patients and doctors, because medicine adherence is key to managing disease. The subtext: good news for Lipitor, because once you’re on it, you stay on it, even though recent studies dispute its artery-clearing powers against a placebo.

We’re waiting for someone to do an adherence study comparing a drug and nothing-at-all. PostScript bets it’s easier for folks to remember to take the pill you don’t have to.

This, of course, is only a hypothesis.