Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Oh, the $3.5 billion bribe? Totally fine. It's normal. Seriously. Don't worry about it.

Like every other news outlet in the country, today's Star Tribune has a piece on the roll-out of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which documented $3.5 billion in payments from the drug and device industries to American doctors and other providers over a five-month window in 2013.

Unlike other outlets, however, the Star Tribune article has this bit of editorializing: "But the majority of payments to doctors, when they are revealed, are expected to be aboveboard."  The Strib article continues with a quote from the chair of neurosurgery at Penn State, Robert Harbaugh: “Overwhelmingly, the interaction between industry and physicians is positive.”

And just to reassure skeptical readers again that everything is fine, the Strib says, "The national movement toward publicizing this information had its origins in Minnesota, where the state Board of Pharmacy has been collecting information on drug company payments to doctors for nearly a decade."

But the Strib neglects to mention the Minnesota corruption scandals that have resulted, such as the US Senate Finance Committee investigation of the University of Minnesota, the series of muckraking articles on Minnesota psychiatry that ran in the New York Times, or the ongoing series of psychiatric research scandals that have led to the ongoing investigation by the Legislative Auditor.

If you want the real story behind the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, have a look instead at this blog post by Paul Thacker, the journalist and former Senate staffer who can claim as much credit as anyone for getting the Sunshine Act into law.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The #FailedIntellectual Goodwill Tour


"Although no longer required, I ask that you please hire an aspiring local accordionist, or preferably, one-man band for the event.  Ideally, the musician will be familiar with the major works of Wagner and Johnny Cash."

Nein Quarterly is on tour.  Details are here.

The terrifying new diet pill

 Every television drug ad includes an alarming list of gruesome side effects, but this ad for the diet drug Belviq may have set a new record. Note to doctors: if you see a patient who is confused, sweating, and feverish, having difficulty driving a car, and is lactating excessively or experiencing erections while having thoughts of suicide, check his or her medicine cabinet for Belviq.

The Physician Payments Sunshine Act...

goes live tomorrow.  (One hopes, anyway.  It has not exactly been a model of efficiency so far.)  Pro Publica has a preview.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How to kill an inmate with schizophrenia

There are a lot of way to mistreat a prisoner with schizophrenia.  You can strip him, beat him, tie him to a chair, take away his medication.  But how badly do you have to treat him before he dies of thirst?  Ask prison officials in North Carolina, who put a man with schizophrenia in solitary confinement for 35 days and turned off the water tap in his cell.  He died of dehydration on a three-hour van ride to a mental hospital.

The Associated Press has the story.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The mole, the Fed, and the great vampire squid

This American Life has secret tapes made by Carmen Segarra, a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve, as it "regulated" Goldman Sachs. The full hour is devoted to the story, and it is riveting.

Home surgery

Coyle and Sharpe try to persuade a druggist to sell them sterilizing equipment, so that they can perform open heart surgery in their station wagon.