The Prescription Project Weekly Reader,  a weekly email of pharma/conflict-of-interest news in review, is moving to PostScript, where it will appear every Friday,  rain or shine.

If you have been receiving the Weekly Reader by email, we invite you to subscribe to PostScript in the right-hand column, and every friday, the Reader will arrive in your inbox, just like the old days.

And if you are just passing by, we hope you’ll subscribe, too, or stop back on Fridays to catch up.

No shortage of news, though, so let’s start in.

Putting off-label studies on the table

Yesterday we posted here about the FDA’s draft guidance on permitting drug marketers to use off-label studies, but coverage abounds in the Washington Post, WSJ Healthblog, and Kaiser Health Policy Daily Report, to name a few.

and speaking of detailing…

This AP report says that physicians are spending less time with drug reps and more time with online detailers.  According to the report, a research firm recently found that just one-quarter of sales visits actually involved an in-person encounter with the good doc.

“Patients are watching, medical students are watching and it’s just become harder and harder to justify these interactions,” online pharma marketing executive David Kramer told the AP.

Weighing the pros and conflicts

Doctors don’t always adhere to the high ethical standards they hold their profession to, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week.  Though 90 percent said that incompetent colleagues should be turned in, 45 percent said they hadn’t always done so, according to this AP report.

Moreover, a quarter of respondents said they’d refer a patient to an imaging center in which they had financial stake without revealing the conflict of interest.  Our favorite part: The AP reported that 21 doctors cashed the $20 survey incentive check without sending back the  survey.

Here’s coverage at the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Health Care Renewal and Pharmalot, too.

What sort of asssistance is Montel offering, anyway?

Montel Williams pitched critics of PhRMA’s marketing machine (and matching tour bus) a softball this week when he threatened a high school intern who asked whether pharmaceutical companies would conduct as much research if profits were restricted.  In the age of YouTube, this story is even juicier.  Read all about it at Prescription Access Litigation blog, Pharmalot, or WSJ Healthblog.

Osh Kosh, My Gosh

The Oshkosh Northwestern points a finger at Oshkosh orthopedist Dr. Jeffrey McLaughlin, who received $600,000 last year in payments from medical device makers, 45 percent of Wisconsin’s take and the most among state docs and healthplans.

The balance sheets are part of an anti-kickback settlement with the federal goverment earlier this year in which five medical device-makers were required to post payments to doctors and providers in online public databases.

The Kennebec Journal – Morning Sentinel looks again at the prescription data-mining issue. Hearings from a challenge to the law restricting the sale of doctors’ prescribing data through an ‘opt-out’ provision have begun, and the health information organizations that aggregate the data and pair it with pharmacy records are looking for an injunction to the law.

Old and off-label

In a follow-up to last week’s summary of an earlier St. Petersburg Times story, the Wall Street Journal looks at the growing use of atypical antipsyotics in nursing homes and connects it with the 1987 law President Reagan signed that restricted restraint tactics that could be used in eldercare facilities. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has begun an investigation.

FDA isn’t tilting at windmills for this one

At least, that’s the word from a new report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest that said finding conflict-free experts isn’t as hard as the FDA said it was last month, when it released the results of its own report on the feasibility of assembling conflict-free expert panels.

In an open letter to FDA commish Andy von Eschenbach, CSPI joined with the National Physicians Alliance, Consumers Union and the Union of Concerned Scientists to call on the FDA to create conflict- free panels as opposed to the patchwork of COI waivers that currently compose the committees. Healthcare Renewal, The Scientist, and Pharmalot all weighed in.

Too different to disclose? drugs vs. devices in MN

In a follow-up to last week’s question about why Minnesota’s drugmaker gift disclosure laws don’t cover device makers, Howard Brody over at Hooked has a few ideas.

“I don’t need a drug rep on site to show me how the patient is supposed to swallow a capsule,” Brody writes.  “Virtually all the information that I need to know about how to prescribe a drug could be provided to me in writing. For many devices this is not true.”

A banner year for safety breaches, and a bad one for pharma

Hats off to Pharmalot for pointing out this “Top Ten Drug Warnings and Recalls of 2007” from FiercePharma.

And it this makes you nostalgic, here’s a new WSJ report on an old refrain: Big Pharma’s prospects are drooping as economic, management and regulatory models shift. Bonus gloom and doom: you may need a subscription to read this one.