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No Mugs, but What About Those Fees?

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  • VERACARE
    ALLIANCE FOR HUMAN RESEARCH PROTECTION Promoting Openness, Full Disclosure, and Accountability http://www.ahrp.org and http://ahrp.blogspot.com FYI None of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5, 2009
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      ALLIANCE FOR HUMAN RESEARCH PROTECTION
      Promoting Openness, Full Disclosure, and Accountability
      http://www.ahrp.org and http://ahrp.blogspot.com

      FYI

      "None of the steps yet contemplated by industry or professional groups would
      completely sever the medical profession and many individual doctors from
      their far more disturbing financial ties to the drug industry."

      We are gratified to note that our critical view of the drug industry's
      guidelines issued by its trade association, PhRMA, prohibiting drug
      companies from distributing trinkets to doctors--e.g., pens, mugs,
      paperweights--but not real financial incentives--is shared by the New York
      Times Editorial (below).

      As we noted in our end of the year Infomail (Dec. 31):
      PhRMA's guidelines do not restrict drug makers from underwriting free
      lunches for doctors and their staffs or to sponsor dinners for doctors at
      restaurants, as long as the meals are accompanied by "educational
      presentations." Who is kidding whom? It is precisely company infomercials
      masquerading as "educational presentations" that are the core of industry's
      corrupting influence--not the pens and paperweights.

      The Times notes, "Over the years, prominent physicians have received hefty
      fees for conducting research, consulting or giving "educational" speeches
      touting the virtues of drugs to their colleagues.

      But the voluntary restrictions--as we noted-- DO NOT APPLY to serious cash
      kick backs to physicians:
      PhRMA's code permits drug makers to pay doctors as consultants "based on
      fair market value" - which means that individual doctors--especially
      influential academic-based physicians--can continue to be influenced with
      hundreds of thousands of dollars or more a year.

      Since the medical profession is willing to wean itself almost entirely from
      its pervasive dependence on industry money--Congress must do so through
      legislation.
      Doctors and academic institutions must be given a choice: either give up
      drug company money or give up government grants.



      Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
      veracare@...
      212-595-8974

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/05/opinion/05mon1.html?emc=eta1
      THE NEW YORK TIMES
      January 5, 2009
      Editorial
      No Mugs, but What About Those Fees?

      New pharmaceutical industry guidelines should stop most drug companies from
      distributing a wide range of trinkets and office supplies designed to keep
      their brand names before doctors as a subliminal inducement to prescribe
      high-priced drugs.

      The new code, which kicked in on New Year's Day, bars the free distribution
      of everything from pens to coffee mugs and staplers by some 40 drug
      companies that have agreed to the restrictions. That may seem like small
      potatoes, but in the aggregate the promotional products probably cost about
      $1 billion a year, as Natasha Singer reported in The Times.

      The updated rules are the industry's latest attempt to restore public
      confidence that doctors are prescribing medicines in the patient's interest.
      The code still has too many loopholes.

      Although it prohibits company sales representatives from providing
      restaurant meals to health care professionals, it allows the sales teams to
      continue providing modest meals in professional offices while pitching their
      products. It allows companies to continue paying for so-called continuing
      medical education for physicians while correctly leaving the selection of
      content, speakers and study materials to conference organizers. There appear
      to be no loopholes in bans against providing free tickets to the theater,
      sporting events or resort junkets.

      None of the steps yet contemplated by industry or professional groups would
      completely sever the medical profession and many individual doctors from
      their far more disturbing financial ties to the drug industry.

      Over the years, prominent physicians have received hefty fees for conducting
      research, consulting or giving "educational" speeches touting the virtues of
      drugs to their colleagues. The new industry code would limit consultants'
      fees to "fair market value," but critics believe that still leaves far too
      much room to pay individual doctors handsomely.

      Two investigations now under way at prominent universities show how much
      more needs to be done to aerate undisclosed conflicts of interest.

      A prominent psychiatrist at Emory University is accused of taking large
      payments from a drug maker - and misleading his university about the amounts
      - while heading a government study of the company's antidepressant drugs.
      Three psychiatrists at Harvard whose work fueled an explosion in the use of
      powerful antipsychotic drugs to treat children are accused of failing to
      report large payments from the drug makers, most of which they had not
      disclosed to their institutions.

      Congress needs to pass legislation that would force all drug and
      medical-device companies to report a wide range of payments to doctors
      through a national registry so that all conflicts are known. This is a
      reform that the industry itself now seems willing to accept. Better yet, the
      medical profession needs to wean itself almost entirely from its pervasive
      dependence on industry money.

      Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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