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February 2016 Newsletter

Recent Project News

  • PharmedOut's December tussle with the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), which has obscured how much industry money is in CME, was picked up by Medical Marketing & Media on Dec. 30th and included in their weekly roundup of "Five Things for Pharma Marketers to Know". (Hmm, if CME isn’t marketing, as Pharma and the ACCME claim, why is the topic so important to Pharma marketers? Just asking…)
  • On Jan. 5th, Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in Pacific Standard's "The Little Pink Pill That Sparked a Feminist War" about the "female Viagra" drug flibanserin/Addyi. She said that low libido is going to become a condition where not only are women going to think, ‘Oh, there’s something biologically wrong with me,’ [but also] ‘I have to try multiple treatments to fix myself." And while some women have claimed the drug's approval is part of the feminist movement, Dr. Fugh-Berman noted that "If the woman’s libido is lower than the guy’s, why’s that her problem? ... Maybe he’s oversexed. All of these labels are subjective and relational.”
     
  • Back in 2013, GlaxoSmithKline announced that they would stop paying physicians to promote their drugs, and has instead hired in-house physicians to do the job. On Jan. 7th, the Financial Times quoted Dr. Fugh-Berman on how while this avoids a conflict of interest, companies should just get out of CME.
     
  • On Jan. 12th, Dr. Fugh-Berman again spoke about Addyi to Refinery29. In "'Female Viagra' Is Here — But Few Women Are Using It", she said that "Certainly there are women that have low libido, but that can be caused by many different things, including medications, such as the birth control pill and antidepressants and blood pressure medicines, for example."
     
  • The Meeting of the Aly/i/cias: This month, current PharmedOut project manager Alycia Hogenmiller (R) got to meet PharmedOut's founding project manager, Alicia Bell MD (L).
 
PharmedOut's Resource of the Month: Our Twitter feed. We have 904 Twitter followers and want to get to 1,000! Follow us to see the latest updates on the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, and related healthcare issues.  

*Reminder: PharmedOut's next conference will be in June 2017. There is no conference in 2016.*

February's PharmedOut Phodder

Pharma's Role in the Opioid Crisis


As we know from the headlines, opioid addiction and its devastating effects have been building for the past couple of years. State by state, local governments and law enforcement have worked to address the drug's prevalence in their communities, and last December the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that opioid overdose deaths hit a record high in 2014.

But doctors could have seen this coming since the 1990s. They were targeted with an onslaught of advertisements, events, and free CME opportunities in the last decade that encouraged more generous painkiller prescribing. They were pressured by patient groups that lobbied heavily for more access to treatment.

Each mechanism shared a common denominator: They were sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, who were most interested in making a profit off of painkiller sales.

The liberal prescription of opioids is a major contributor to the annual opioid overdose death toll — which now exceeds car crash fatalities. And drug companies cannot just pin it on heroin — as U.S. News reported, "People are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin if they are addicted to prescription painkillers. Abuse of prescription painkillers is incredibly common — one in 20 Americans age 12 and older reported using painkillers for non-medical reasons in the past year." Prescription drug abuse is still more common than heroin abuse, killing more people than heroin and cocaine combined. Also, the skyrocketing heroin addiction rate is fueled by addicts who switch from prescription opioids to heroin, which is cheaper and more readily available.

Now, Pharma pretends to be part of solution, as they publish new guidelines for physicians and tout their research on abuse-resistant formulations of drugs they are overpromoting. But if the astroturf patient advocacy groups and new child-size dosages are any indicator, Pharma’s eyes are still firmly fixed on the bottom line.

Check These Out!

 
CME credit for the price of a cappuccino! Physicians, Advanced Practice Nurses, and Pharmacists: Support pharma-free continuing education, courtesy of the Washington, D.C. Department of Health. Five CME/CPE-accredited courses on Drug Approval, Generic Drugs, and Medical Cannabis are available free to DC prescribers and pharmacists, and $20 gets access to all five modules for prescribers and pharmacists outside of DC. 

Want to know what it would be like to interview indicted Pharma tyrant Martin Shkreli over a game of chess? Here you go.

News Round-Up

(For more, follow @Pharmed_Out on Twitter!)

 

January 28

One percent of U.S. docs responsible for a third of malpractice payments by Gene Emery (Reuters)

Misrepresenting harms in antidepressant trials by Joanna Moncrieff (BMJ)

Novartis: U.S. Insurers Too Slow to Cover New Drugs by John Miller (MedPage Today)

January 26

Big Pharma’s worst nightmare by Sarah Boseley (The Guardian)

Bernie Sanders says he’ll block Senate vote on FDA’s Robert Califf by Sheila Kaplan

January 25

Drug Deaths Reach White America (Editorial) (New York Times)

Meet the Guy Who Calls Out B.S. Health News For a Living by Ashley Balcerzak (Men's Health)

January 21

Patient groups funded by drugmakers are largely mum on high drug prices by Jayne O'Connell (USA Today)

Tax Dollars Pick Up Two-Thirds of Healthcare Tab by Joyce Frieden (MedPage Today)

January 20

Solving Pharma's Shkreli Problem by Matthew Herper (Forbes)

January 19

How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America by Haeyoun Park and Matthew Bloch (New York Times)

Deaths Ripples Across AmericaShkreli, Valeant CEO set for a grilling at congressional price-hike hearing by Emily Wasserman (FiercePharma)

January 18

Even Talking About Reducing Drug Prices Can Reduce Drug Prices by Austin Frakt (New York Times)

January 16

Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in Mortality Rates of Young Whites by Gina Kolata and Sarah Cohen (New York Times)

January 15

Merck to Pay $830 Million to Settle Vioxx Shareholder Suit by Peter Loftus (Wall Street Journal)

January 14

F.D.A. Faulted for Problems With Drug Tracking by Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times)

FDA Took 17 Months to Notify Doctors on Scopes’ ‘Superbug’ Dangers by Thomas M. Burton (Wall Street Journal)

FDA faulted for failure to track safety issues with drugs already on market by Sheila Kaplan (Stat)

January 13

Controversial 'pay-for-delay' deals drop after FTC's win in top court by Diane Bartz (Reuters)

Hemophilia Patient or Drug Seller? Dual Role Creates Ethical Quandary by Andrew Pollack (New York Times)

January 12

Implant for Opioid Addicts Urged for Federal Approval by Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times)

Drug makers dismiss outrage over high prices as ‘abomination’ by Rebecca Robbins (Stat)

January 11

Heartburn pills linked to increased risk of kidney disease by Lisa Rapaport (Reuters)

U.S. justices reject Johnson & Johnson unit's anti-psychotic drug appeal by Lawrence Hurley (Reuters)

Prescription drug prices jumped more than 10 percent in 2015, analysis finds by Brady Dennis (Washington Post)

January 10

Drugmakers Raise Prices Despite Criticisms by Peter Loftus (Wall Street Journal)

January 8

Pfizer hikes U.S. prices for over 100 drugs on January 1 by Deena Beasley (Reuters)

January 7

Whistleblower lawsuit filed by ex-GlaxoSmithKline manager by Ed Silverman (Stat Pharmalot)

“Thousands of lives lost”? Why calls for faster drug approvals need more scrutiny by Susan Molchan

January 6

The Risks of Overusing CT Scans by Sandra G. Boodman (The Atlantic)

Activists sue Ohio to get drug pricing measure on the ballot by Ed Silverman (Stat Pharmalot)

January 5

My Tinder date with ‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli by Jacklyn Collier (Washington Post)

January 4

Family-doctor college releases long-secret report on Big-Pharma funding, but refuses to cut off money flow by Tom Blackwell (National Post)

Maker of generic version of Nexium goes blue to settle litigation by Ed Silverman (Stat Pharmalot)

December 29

How researchers dupe the public with a sneaky practice called "outcome switching" by Julia Belluz (Vox)

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