Thursday, April 30, 2009

A pharma celebration?

"In what may be the biggest break that the Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical industry have had in years, GOP Sen. Charles Grassley could step out of his leading role on the Senate Finance Committee to take the top Republican spot on the Judiciary Committee." Alicia Mundy reports.

A misuser's guide to Adderall

Dr. Larry Diller advises students on Adderall in The Harvard Crimson.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

IoM advises stopping pharma gifts to doctors

WASHINGTON — In a scolding report, the nation’s most influential medical advisory group said that doctors should stop taking much of the money, gifts and free drug samples that they routinely accept from drug and device companies. Read the New York Times story here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Stimulating Undergraduates ...

Margaret Talbot reports on the off label use of neuroenhancing drugs by students in the latest issue of The New Yorker.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Database restored

The St. Paul Pioneer Press has restored its searchable database of pharmaceutical industry payments to Minnesota physicians. You can try it here.

Merck ghosts in Oz

"Merck had a cardiologist sign his name to a medical journal article it wrote claiming there was no evidence of any heart risk attached to its drug Vioxx, court documents allegedly show." More evidence of corporate wrongdoing emerges in litigation against Merck in Australia, The Australian reports.

Spend your dwindling cash supply on sleep meds

Anxious Americans are losing sleep over their finances. This makes them a perfect mark for the National Sleep Foundation. Read more here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Coast IRB folds

"Companies typically die slow, lingering deaths, the victims of changing technologies or tectonic shifts in global trade. But it is possible to kill a company really fast." The New York Times reports the demise of Coast IRB, the for-profit review board caught up in a federal sting operation.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blogging for dollars

"Increasingly, companies are paying users of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to hype their brands online." On the Media reports.

Worst story ever for Times?

"The Health News Review gave a big "F" to this week's New York Times' coverage of the Dendreon press release claiming Provenge had proved successful in treating prostate cancer. The story "fails readers in every important way," the review said." Read more on Gooznews.

My doctor, my artist

"A thing of beauty is a joy, whether forever or for a day, and if a doctor-artist can turn you into one, that’s art to me. And if he can rescue a body from serious ruin and a soul from despair, God bless him; he’s as good as Michelangelo. Does he cater to the rich and charge too much? Check out all the drecky Picassos still selling for huge prices at auction. Do all those nose jobs look pretty much alike? Check out paintings in Chelsea galleries these days."

Read about “I Am Art: An Expression of the Visual & Artistic Process of Plastic Surgery,” a new gallery show curated by a plastic surgeon, in the New York Times.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The friendly fascism of posthumanism

Listen to Andrei Codrescu discuss his new book, The Posthuman Dada Guide.

Psychiatrists get the most pharma money in Vermont

Psychiatrists top the list of specialties receiving gifts and payments from the drug industry in Vermont, says a report from the state attorney general. Eli Lilly tops the list of industry donors. Read more in the WSJ Health Blog.

Is the FDA bipolar?

Martha Rosenberg writes about some recent FDA approvals.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's time to pump it up ....

... then push up daisies?

A NY times article on the emerging, and potentially dangerous, underground silicone injection culture. 'Pump parties' are particularly popular in the transgender  community. Injections are performed by untrained and unlicensed individuals with non-medical silicone which can be contaminated with foreign materials such as paraffin and motor oil, occasionally  leading to sepsis or embolism. The cost per treatment can be as high as $1,000.

The future of medical care

David Healy delivers the 2009 Nordlander Lecture in Science and Public Policy at Cornell University, titled "The Future of Medical Care: Can Industrialized and Marketized Healthcare be Made Universally Available?" The video of the event can be found here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Unknown Hinson for Liquid Chicken

Giving away the store

"A new plan to give away trade secrets could improve big pharma’s awful reputation,"writes Jim Giles in The Prospect. And the plan is being proposed by the new CEO of GlaxoSmithKline. Read more here.

Jeers to JAMA

Adriane Fugh-Berman and Douglas Melnick on the JAMA affair.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Coast IRB agrees to stop reviewing studies

Coast IRB, the for-profit IRB that was stung by a federal undercover operation, has agreed to stop reviewing FDA-regulated studies. Read more here.

Let's Test Every Pregnant Woman's Thyroid Level ...

The female equivalent of PSA testing?

If hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, pre-eclampsia, and miscarriage don't grab your attention, how about children with subpar IQ levels?

Will the benefits outweigh the risks and costs of testing over 6 million pregnant women each year?

Universal testing with a false negative rate of 1/3 in hypothyroidism and 2/3 in hyperthyroidism .... hmmm 

Monday, April 13, 2009

The compliance chip

"Microchips in pills could soon allow doctors to find out whether a patient has taken their medication." Read more here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Camming your Moles

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Minnesota is unveiling a virtual clinic for its 10 thousand employees this fall.
The pilot project offers a 10-minute live consultation at an undisclosed flat fee and is projected to be a money saver. 
The nifty site will offer a 'Time Remaining' digital clock so the patient and doctor know when time is running out. 
No word yet on the evaluation protocol for ear aches or hemorrhoids. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

It's time to fight the "PharmaScolds"

So says an editorial in the Wall Street Journal: "These critics are pious academics, self-righteous medical journal editors, and opportunistic politicians and journalists."

Falsified studies at Harvard

A Merck doctor falsified a research study when he was on the faculty at Harvard, according to the Office of Research Integrity. Read more here.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

This should come in handy at the U

Researchers at the University of Minnesota report they have found a drug to prevent stealing. Read more here.

Triumph of public relations at Hopkins

To great fanfare, Johns Hopkins University announces its new conflict of interest policy, which looks more like good PR than a genuine restriction on industry influence. See Daniel Carlat's reaction here.

Seroquel for depression?

"A government panel opened the door a crack yesterday toward allowing AstraZeneca to sell its Seroquel XR more widely, after an emotional meeting that included stories from two families who say their loved ones died after taking the powerful antipsychotic." Read more here.

Raptiva to go

Genentech is withdrawing its troubled immunosuppressant drug, Raptiva, from the market, because of a link to a rare brain infection. (If Raptiva sounds familiar, that may be a result of its link to a couple of research scandals, which appear to be unrelated. See here and here.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Here comes Lily Allen

The British pop star, who performs in Minneapolis this weekend, sings about media-driven materialism turning us all into "weapons of massive consumption."

But not only that.

These days, everyone's on drugs of one kind or another:

"Everyone from grown politicians to young adolescents/prescribing themselves antidepressants."

Do free markets corrode moral character?

Of course they do, says Michael Walzer. But that in itself is no argument against the free market.

Fake journal for Vioxx studies?

Merck invented a medical journal called the The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, and passed it off as a peer-reviewed scientific publication, according to lawyers suing Merck in Australia. Read more here.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Grassley takes on advocacy group

Sen. Charles Grassley is investigating the National Alliance for Mental Illness, a patient advocacy group that is heavily funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Read more here.

Keller to step down at Brown

Martin Keller, chair of psychiatry at Brown University and a notorious figure in the conflict-of-interest battles, is stepping down in June, according to Alison Bass.

Is the Trovan story finally over?

"Pfizer has reached a broad agreement to pay millions of dollars to Nigeria's Kano state to settle a criminal case alleging that the drug company illegally tested an experimental drug on gravely ill children during a 1996 meningitis epidemic," says The Washington Post. If the case is settled, it will end the story of one the most notorious cases of pharmaceutical industry exploitation of the developing world. (For background on the Trovan scandal, see this article.)

Marcia Angell explains how to reform the FDA

See "Charting a new course at the FDA" in The Boston Globe.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

How to invent a disease

The vice-president of Pharmacia explains how his company invented and marketed the disease of "overactive bladder." Read more here.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Abducting and Selling Boys in Rural China

A disturbing report from the April 4, 2009 New York Times:

"If you have only girls, you don't feel right inside," said Ms. Zhen, who has one child, an 11-year old son. "You feel your status is lower than everyone else."

The Seroquel plot thickens

"AstraZeneca P.L.C. paid Florida child psychiatrist Jorge Armenteros to talk to other doctors about prescribing Seroquel, the company's powerful antipsychotic. And until yesterday, Armenteros also was listed as the chair and a voting member of a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee with a lot of power over Seroquel, which generated $4.45 billion in sales last year for AstraZeneca." More twists in the litigation over Seroquel, reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Shrink scandals

"Virtually all the psychiatrists who wrote the latest clinical guidelines for how to treat depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia had financial ties to drug companies, according to preliminary findings by Boston-based researchers." The Boston Globe has more.

The V-Squad

How do you sell a painkiller that causes heart attacks and stroke? That's a job for the V-Squad. This video, which emerged in litigation against Merck, was used to train the drug reps detailing Vioxx

"Zero-dollar" policy for professional medical associations?

A group of physicians is recommending that doctors drafting practice guidelines for professional medical associations (PMAs) take no corporate money whatsoever.  However ...irony of ironies ... their article was published in the April 1st issue of JAMA! Who's foolin' who?!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Aimee Mullins: How My Legs Give Me Super Powers

"Aimee Mullins: How My Legs Give Me Super Powers".

An interesting perspective on enhancement vs. disability.

Stanford discloses, sort of

"Stanford University’s medical school will begin to publicly identify doctors and other faculty members who receive more than $5,000 annually from drug and medical-device companies — but it won’t put an exact figure on how much they were paid." See the WSJ Health Blog.


David Healy "has vaulted to prominence as a fierce critic of standard professional practice; of the role of Big Pharma – the collective name for large pharmaceutical companies – in reconstituting the very terms in which we as a culture understand and respond to mental illness; and of the biobabble that these days has replaced psychobabble as the verbal camouflage for our ignorance about the aetiology of mental illness."

"Along the way, he has exposed the extraordinary venality of many leading academic psychiatrists; the widespread ghostwriting of what purport to be cutting-edge publications in major journals (apparently produced by eminent scientists but actually concocted by public relations flacks for the pharmaceutical houses); the routine suppression or gross misinterpretation of data on the effects of psychoactive drugs along lines which maximize the profits of the huge multinationals (who thereby extract obscene sums from the sufferings of the mentally ill); the heightened risk of suicide and other untoward events that, perversely, may accompany the ingestion of antidepressants; and the fraudulent “science” on which many contemporary understandings of mental disorder rest."

"Small wonder that for many Healy has become a professional pariah, and that he plausibly reports being hounded, menaced and attacked by the enormously powerful corporations whose profits he threatens."

Andrew Scull reviews Healy's latest book, Mania, in The Times.

Our Father of Perpetual Abstinence

During a recent visit to Africa Pope Benedict XVI said that HIV/AIDS is "a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through distribution of condoms ... which can even increase the problem. "
The British medical journal, Lancet, has countered that His Holiness has 'publicly distorted scientific evidence'. 
The gloves are off ... (Lancet, apparently, recommends keeping them on).