The unconventional thank you note: GSK exec demonstrates

Yesterday Chris Viehbacher, head of GlaxoSmithKline’s U.S. Division, sent a wouldn’t-it-be-a-shame note to legislators considering a Massachusetts bill that would ban pharmaceutical vendors from giving gifts to physicians.  In the letter, Viehbacher expressed his displeasure at the prospective law and reminded them of Glaxo’s recent job creation in the Bay State. Considering that the same legislators have proposed $1B to help boost the state’s biotech cluster, we wonder just how much Viehbacher wants before he’d be content ditching the bribes to physicians and sticking to the science.

Here’s the original story in the Boston Herald, and today’s follow-up, which includes interviews with two legislators who weren’t amused. We were, though, to read that state Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) called the letter ‘baloney.’

Speaking of the Boston broadsheets, Pharmalot says supporters of physician/industry relations have enjoyed some column inches lately on the op-ed pages of the Herald and Globe. Chief of medicine at Mass General Hospital Dennis Ausiello, M.D. coauthored both, in which he calls for “more, not less, interaction between academic physician scientists and their counterparts in industry, engagement that should occur at every stage of the drug development process.”

When last we checked, that engagement was happening at every stage of the process – and look how good Vytorin turned out.

We’d like to hear from you

Today, Big Pharma goes to the Hill, but not for lobbying (ok, well maybe for that too.) The House and Energy Oversight and Investigations subcommittee will be hearing from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Schering-Plough about direct-to-consumer advertising.

The baby in the bathwater, and Texaco treats at school:

A doc–off over AAMC recommendations

Over at MSNBC, Art Caplan Ph.D., a renowned bioethicist at University of Pennsylvania squares off against Cornell surgeon Edward Craig M.D. M.P.H.  about why the new AAMC recommendations are a good thing – or not.

Caplan writes:

Business has no business selling or promoting in the middle of classrooms or other academic settings. Academic medical centers, if they want to teach their students how best to think about the medicines they prescribe and to retain the trust of the American people about evaluating them objectively, should do everything they can to keep the marketing, sales pitches, promotions and bribes — large and small — away from campus.

Craig, however, says that the prescribed ban, which includes things as big as foreign travel and as small as pens, lacks subtlety, and insults hungry doctors.  “When was the last time you were bribed by a piece of pizza or a logo pen with five days worth of ink?” Craig writes.

Ah, the old if-it-were-you argument.  More than a few fables and aphorisms have been written to warn us against that reasoning, but perhaps Jane Austen did it best in her novel, Persuasion: “How quick come the reasons for approving what we like!”

(And we like the pens a lot.)

Airing on the side of secrecy reported on some undisclosed industry relationships on the airwaves.  Neither the hosts nor the medical experts interviewed during a program on the depression meds SSRIs announced the experts’ consultant and advisory capacities for makers of the drugs.  More here.