drug companies

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Harsh Reaction To Biederman’s ‘Slap On The Wrist’ From Harvard

Dr. Joseph Biederman, Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard University, Chief, Clinical and Research Programs in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD,
Massachusetts General Hospital (Photo: MGH)

The blogosphere’s conflict-of-interest monitors have been in a tizzy since Harvard announced sanctions (some might call them minor) against Massachusetts General Hospital psychiatrist Joseph Biederman and colleagues for failing to disclose their financial ties to drug companies.

The most detailed and knowledgeable assessment comes from journalist Alison Bass, a muckraking investigative reporter and author who writes on financial shenanigans within the pharmaceutical industry. Bass calls Harvard’s sanctions “essentially a slap on the wrist.” Here’s her full take:

In 2008, Congressional investigators accused the three psychiatrists — Biederman, Thomas Spencer and Timothy Wilens — of failing to disclose more than $1 million each in payments from the drug industry. As I blogged about here, most of Biederman’s financial ties were with the makers of anti-psychotic drugs at the very same time he was promoting the use of these drugs in the treatment of childhood bipolar disorder. According to documents released in a lawsuit, Biederman also courted funding from Johnson & Johnson by promising that his work at Mass. General would promote the use of its anti-psychotic Risperdal in children. Johnson & Johnson gave the hospital $700,000 for a Biederman-led research center that did studies promoting Risperdal. All of which raises the question of whether Biederman helped the drug company illegally market the off-label use of its anti-psychotic drug in children

But rather than suspend or fire him for such unethical and possibly criminal behavior, Harvard and Mass. General let him and his two colleagues off easy. According to The Boston Globe, they required the three physicians to refrain from all paid industry-sponsored activities for one year and undergo unspecified additional training. A letter Biederman and his colleagues wrote to co-workers about the remedial actions also mentioned that they might “suffer a delay of consideration for promotion and advancement.” Continue reading

Q&A: It’s Not Just Doctors Who Get Company Money And Gifts


Yesterday, when Massachusetts posted the nation’s most extensive database of commercial payments to health care providers, the first impulse for many of us was to look up our own doctors. But Georgia Maheras of the Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition points out that drug and device makers do not court only physicians.

“The industry will market to anyone who has the ability to prescribe to a patient,” she said. In the database are “many non-physician prescribers who received a lot of gifts.”

Q: So whom are we talking about here? Physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners?

A: The database also provides information on Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Pharmacists, Dentists, Licensed Psychologists, Massage Therapists, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, Physical Therapists, Psych. Clinical Nurses, Respiratory Therapists, and Speech Pathologists

Q: What’s your sense of the numbers and sizes of the gifts and payments they receive, as compared to physicians?

A: In terms of gifts received, the non-physician prescribers received $ 3,521,879.71- this is just about 18% of the total amount paid to individuals (the rest was to physicians).
Over 3,000 non-physician prescribers received nearly 4,000 gifts and payments by industry. This compares to over 8,800 physicians who received over 18,000 payments and gifts.
Industry marketing to these individuals is significant and has grown dramatically over the past 10 years.

Q: What is your advice to a patient who looks up a non-physician provider who treats them and finds that the database does show that gifts or money have changed hands?

A: Patients should talk with their provider and ask them about it- especially if the patient is using a device or taking a drug by the company that gave their provider a gift. Patients should be confident in any provider’s ability to give them conflict-free care. Continue reading

Does Your Dr. Get Drug Money? How To Look It Up On New Mass. Database

Massachusetts just became the most transparent state in the nation, at least in terms of making public online a great data-dump of the money that health care providers receive from drug and device makers. The Boston Globe reports here that the database lists $35.7 million in payments from the second half of 2009, of which $16 million went to physicians.

Want to look up your own doctor? My initial experience is that it’s not perfectly simple. I went first to the link the Globe provided, and eventually figured out that I should click on “Information for Consumers,” then on “reports” then on “reports” again, then on “custom reports.” (Prepared reports will give you a gallery of who gets and gives the most money — also fun but not so personally relevant.)

Then I clicked on “Payments made to a recipient report,” then on “Run payments made to a recipient report” and finally, finally, could plug in my doctor’s name. She looks clean, I’m happy to report. Not that I would’ve considered her “unclean” if she were there. I just might’ve perhaps asked her twice about any drug she recommended if she were listed as receiving money from its manufacturer…

If you try this at home, please share your experience! Did your doctor or other provider get any money or not? How do you feel about this?

The Globe reports: Continue reading

Daily Rounds: Drug Co. Money Flows To Docs; Recalled Walmart Peas May Contain Glass; How To Live To 100; Organizing Boston Hospitals

Docs on Pharma Payroll Have Blemished Records, Limited Credentials – ProPublica “Drug companies say they hire the most-respected doctors in their fields for the critical task of teaching about the benefits and risks of their drugs. But an investigation by ProPublica uncovered hundreds of doctors on company payrolls who had been accused of professional misconduct, were disciplined by state boards or lacked credentials as researchers or specialists.” (ProPublica)

And here’s another, related story:

Mass. doctors earn drug firms’ dollars – The Boston Globe “While some doctors who gave speeches once or twice during 2009 and 2010 earned $2,000 to $3,000, more than two dozen Massachusetts psychiatrists, endocrinologists, and other specialists who gave frequent talks brought in $40,000 to $100,000 and, in a few cases, more. Dr. Lawrence DuBuske, an allergy specialist, earned the most: $219,775. The Globe reported earlier this year that he resigned from Brigham and Women’s Hospital largely because of its new speaking ban.” (Boston Globe)

Frozen Vegetables Sold at Kroger and Walmart Recalled – Parenting.com “PR Newswire reported that the Pictsweet Company announced a voluntary recall of certain codes of store brand products containing frozen green peas after the company learned that some of the packages may contain glass fragments, which may cause injury if ingested. Products subject to this recall were distributed only to Kroger stores in the Southeast United States and Walmart stores throughout the United States.” (parenting.com)

Personal Health – Three R’s for Extreme Longevity – NYTimes.com Esther Tuttle is pushing age 100. "Her memoir and replies to (a reporter's) queries revealed three critical attributes that might be dubbed longevity’s version of the three R’s: resolution, resourcefulness and resilience. Throughout her long life, she’s taken hardships in stride, traipsed blithely over obstacles and converted many into building blocks. And she has adhered to a regimen of a careful diet, hard work, regular exercise and a very long list of community service, all while raising three children." (The New York Times)

Running a hospital: Tactical update on SEIU Paul Levy on union organizing at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: “There has been a theory circulating around town that this tactical decision to avoid MGH and Brigham and Women's Hospital might have its origins in the personal relationship between the former head of the SEIU and the Chief Operating Officer of PHS [Partners Health System], who served as an Deputy Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. Will SEIU's reluctance to take on the PHS hospitals be put aside now that Mr. Stern has left the SEIU and the COO [Tom Glynn] is leaving Partners?” (Running A Hospital)