Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Collecting pharma money, losing patients

From the St Paul Pioneer Press:

"As debate continues about the propriety of drug company payments to doctors, Maran Wolston is trying to add a unique perspective - a patient's point of view.  Wolston, 30, of Minneapolis was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008. As she moved forward with treatment, Wolston started questioning aspects of her physician's care and ultimately cut ties in early 2010 after learning of the doctor's significant financial relationships with industry."

Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Revolving Door

See the Venn Diagram here.  (Click to enlarge it.)

Because I'm worth it

Healthcare executives are among the highest paid in the country, with McKesson Corporation CEO John Hammergren topping the list at nearly $145.3 million.  Read about it here.

The financially conflicted panel behind cholesterol screening for kids

Read about it in Slate.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lawrence Lessig interviews Jack Abramoff at Harvard

University of Minnesota surgeon with $1.2 million in undisclosed Medtronic payments is unrepentant

Medtronic may be getting hammered for its sleazy tactics promoting its bone product product, Infuse, but University of Minnesota surgeon David Polly is unrepentant about his role.  Yes, he took $1.2 million from Medtronic in consulting fees, and sure, he didn't tell the U.S. Senate that Medtronic had funded his trip to Washington to persuade the federal government to fund an Infuse study.  (After that trip,the Department of Defense awarded Polly and his University of Minnesota colleagues a $466,644 grant to study Infuse.)  But all that means is that Polly "didn't dot every 'I' and cross every 'T."  The University of Minnesota apparently agrees.  After an internal investigation, the university has decided that although Polly failed to disclose his conflicts of interest in three instances, he should not be disciplined.  The Dean did, however, send Polly a strongly worded letter.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What's wrong with the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethics?

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethics has released its new report on the state of medical research, entitled “Moral Science – Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research."  But Matt Lamkin at the Stanford Law and Biosciences Blog writes that the Commission missed the mark.  "The problem is not that the Commission failed to carry out its mandate," he writes, "but that its mandate was circumscribed in a way that all but precluded the Commission from addressing the most egregious abuses currently being inflicted on many human research subjects." Those abuses are taking place not in federally sponsored research, but in research sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry.  Lamkin continues: "Although examining industry-funded research may have been beyond the scope of its charge, the Commission certainly wasn’t obligated to treat the pharmaceutical industry as a paragon of medical ethics, or to credulously accept the testimony of industry representatives about their ethical practices."

Read the entire post here.

Vaclav Havel is dead

Read an obituary from The Guardian.  Then read this remarkable 1990 speech at The Hebrew University.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Scarface opens a drugstore

Tristram Korten has written a riveting article in Fast Company on Medicare fraud in Florida. Here is a sample.

"Over the past decade, individual criminal rings in South Florida have netted hundreds of millions of dollars at a time. This is drug-cartel level profit, but without the gunfights. And it has spawned a supporting economy to service it. There is a brisk trade in stolen patient and doctor IDs. Shady car dealerships and check-cashing stores provide fronts for money laundering. Disreputable lawyers reportedly hold seminars on how to set up shop and bill the government. One former prosecutor I talked with speculated that Miami's economy would grind to a halt if all Medicare fraud stopped overnight. In certain parts of town, it is easy to find low-rent office complexes packed with doctors' offices, therapy clinics, and medical-supply stores all closed in the middle of the day. Many of the ones that are open have the exact same sign posted by the door: please be advised that this office will not allow unannounced visits by insurance company investigators."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lessig on The Daily Show

Discussing Republic, Lost.  Watch here, starting about 14:30.

Farewell to a provincial redneck: Christopher Hitchens remembers Jesse Helms,

Three years ago, when former North Carolina senator and race-baiter Jesse Helms passed away, Christopher Hitchens wrote this obituary for Slate.

Postscript: Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Buckley writes about his thirty-year friendship with Christopher Hitchens in The New Yorker.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Republic, Lost

Larry Lessig's new book on government corruption, Republic, Lost, is reviewed today in the New York Times.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Who is your neurologist working for?

In the December issue of Health Affairs, Maran Wolston describes the disillusionment that came with the discovering that her neurologist was being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars from the manufacturers of MS drugs.  Today Susan Perry interviewed her for MinnPost.  An excerpt:
Wolston never returned to that physician. "Having MS is difficult enough," she writes. "The last thing I needed was to worry about whether my neurologist was acting in the best interest of the drug companies or in the best interest of me, his patient."

"You expect a CEO or a public relations person from a Fortune 500 company to spin things a bit," she told me. "But you don't think that about doctors — that they're spinning things or having conflicts of interest that could be impacting your care."

And the conflicts of interest did impact her care. "It put my decision-making at a standstill," she said. "I felt like I couldn't make a decision about whether to go on a treatment or not. I didn't know how much of the information I was getting was biased."

Read the article in MinnPost.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Med school professor bought her PhD from a PO Box in Hawaii, but the University of Kansas doesn't mind

Seriously.  The laboratory director at The University of Kansas Medical Center's brain imaging center ordered her PhD from a university in Hawaii that has no campus, curriculum or permanent faculty, and the university is fine with it.  In fact, they've known about it for ten years.  Read the story here.

Privatizing those privates

Parental discretion is advised.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I do not like them, Sam-I-Am

A New Milford, Connecticut high school senior was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly spiked brownies with antispsychotic drugs and served them to a teacher's aide and two classmates.  Read about it here.

We're Number 3!

The University of Minnesota has the 3rd most expensive state medical school in the country for in-state residents, costing students over $38,000 a year in tuition and fees.  Read about it here.

Shilling me softly

What do you do when you find out your neurologist, who has just diagnosed you with a chronic illness, is actually a shill for pharma?  And what if he tries to recruit you into a risky clinical trial sponsored by a company that is paying him?  Maran Wolston ponders these questions in Health Affairs.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kiwis, antidepressants and suicide

60 Minutes New Zealand takes a critical look at the antidepressant/suicide debate.  Watch the video here.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The $1.5 million dental dummy project

Why did the U dental school waste $1.5 million on flashy but useless dental mannequins?  The Daily wants to know.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Video: Paul Thacker speaks on medical corruption at Harvard

Pills, Power and Policy, by Dominique Tobbell

Since the 1950s, the American pharmaceutical industry has been heavily criticized for its profit levels, the high cost of prescription drugs, drug safety problems, and more, yet it has, together with the medical profession, staunchly and successfully opposed regulation. Pills, Power, and Policy offers a lucid history of how the American drug industry and key sectors of the medical profession came to be allies against pharmaceutical reform. It details the political strategies they have used to influence public opinion, shape legislative reform, and define the regulatory environment of prescription drugs. Untangling the complex relationships between drug companies, physicians, and academic researchers, the book provides essential historical context for understanding how corporate interests came to dominate American health care policy after World War II.
 "A superb and compelling account of the creation of one of America’s most reviled entities: Big Pharma. With clarity and subtlety, Pills, Power, and Policy weaves together the political, economic, and the medical to reveal the entangled history behind our modern pharmaceutical predicament."

--Andrea Tone, Ph.D., Professor of History & Canada Research Chair in the Social History of Medicine, McGill University
About the author:
Dominique A. Tobbell, Ph.D is a historian of 20th century medicine, science, technology, and health care politics and policy. She is assistant professor in the Program in the History of Medicine at the University of Minnesota.
Read more here.

Merck evades responsibility for mass deaths

From Fred Gardner in CounterPunch:

Q: Who killed more Americans —al Qaeda crashing airplanes into the World Trade Center, or Merck pushing Vioxx?

A: Merck, by a factor of 18.

Read "Merck Pays a Pittance for Mass Deaths" here.