Monday, May 16, 2016

Another day, another conflict of interest scandal at the U

Yes, yet another med school faculty member at the U on the payroll of a pharma company. But this time it's not an orthopedic surgeon or a psychiatrist. It is an assistant professor of anesthesiology.

In 2014 Jacob Hutchins got nearly $190,000 in speaking and consulting fees from Pacira, which happens to make an anesthetic called Exparel. That's a lot of money, especially when it all comes from a single company.  In fact, according to the Strib, it was the second-largest sum paid by Pacira to any U.S. physician for purposes other than research.

Yet if it were just the $190K, this would probably amount to nothing more than a run-of-the-mill story about a pharma pitchman. What makes this story stand out is that Hutchins and the anesthesiology team he leads at the U are using Exparel for off-label uses that the FDA has already rejected -- as a peripheral nerve block to prevent post-surgical pain.

The Strib says the practice is so controversial that some anesthesiologists have left the university.

Maybe what is most revealing about the story is the fact that the two anesthesiologists were concerned enough about patient care to go to the Strib, but that neither would speak on the record. This suggests that the "culture of fear and intimidation" at the U is not limited to the Department of Psychiatry.

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