Stanford psychiatrist makes Grassley’s list
Continuing his I-Spy search for undisclosed financial ties among academic physicians, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) added Dr. Alan Schatzberg, head of psychiatry at Stanford School of Medicine to the Congressional Record this week after learning of Dr. Schatzberg’s $6 million investment in a company whose drug is in a clinical trial—run by Dr. Schatzberg. The drug is RU-486, manufactured by Corcept Therapeutics and is being studied for depression indications. According to the San Jose Mercury News, “Grassley and other critics do not charge Schatzberg with violating university policy. Stanford requires that professors report investments of “more than $100,000” – and Schatzberg disclosed that he did.” He just didn’t tell the school how much more.
Sen. Grassley, who found big disclosure omissions among three psychiatrists at Harvard University earlier this month, is concerned that current disclosure policies don’t do enough to illuminate and eliminate the potential conflicts of interest created by investments such as Schatzberg’s. Schatzberg is the incoming president of the American Psychiatric Association.
A group of prominent Massachusetts physicians, including a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and the chief medical officers of UMass Memorial and Boston Medical Center, have written to state lawmakers in support of the proposed cost control and quality bill, S2660, which would, among other things, ban gifts from pharmaceutical and medical device companies to physicians. Check out the news and letters here.
The Tchotchke Wars
In a primo set-up for a Jon Stewart monologue, those same Massachusetts legislators also heard from the state’s trinketmakers this week– the New England Promotional Products Association – who sent their representatives mugs to demonstrate…how mugs don’t influence behavior.
“Is it possible a mug, a pen, or a sticky-note pad could influence your vote? We doubt it….” Begins the note…Tucked inside this mug…For your desk…Don’t mention it.
We here at the Weekly Reader love ready-to-serve irony. The icing? The favors were shipped from Pennsylvania, where mugs still do influence behavior.
From the left coast comes a tchotchke story on a grander scale: San Diego was home to this year’s Biotechnology Industry Organization convention, and this San Diego Union-Tribune article is devoted almost entirely to cataloging the loot being passed out there, plus a little French accent mockery that would offend even Pepe Le Pew.
Other California news: Health information privacy advocates and enemies of junkmail everywhere breathed a sigh of relief last week when the Assembly Health Committee dropped a Senate-passed bill that would have allowed pharmacies to give out customers’ prescription information for reminder mail.
Blue skies, sad eyes?
And this guest editorial in the Boston Globe casts some healthy skepticism in the direction of a recent Pfizer-sponsored depression screening of Cape Codders, which the Globe reported on earlier this month. This sort of aggressive industry-backed screening and disease-prevalence report is often used by pharmaceutical companies to prime the pump for ‘blockbuster drugs,” a tactic that Melody Petersen discusses in her book Our Daily Meds. If you haven’t already, check out the PostScript interview with her here.