PharmedOut Newsletter, April 2014

Recent Project News

  • PharmedOut wrapped up our "What Are Your Top 20 Drugs?" survey this month with over 500 responses, and we have begun analyzing the results. A story on the concept was written up by Kate Aubusson for Australian Doctor.

    Because the survey was such a success, we are doing a version of it with second and fourth-year Georgetown medical students this spring. We are interested in comparing the drug choices of students after they have taken a comprehensive pharmacology curriculum during second year, with the choices of fourth-year students who have spent two years doing clinical work.
  • We contributed to a report led by Dr. Susan Wood at the George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health, analyzing the most recent D.C. pharmaceutical marketing data. The report is now available on the D.C. Department of Health website, and a summary of our findings can be found in this press release and in Washington Business Journal.
  • PharmedOut is thrilled to have added a new volunteer staffperson to our team. Sherie Newcomb, a graduate of Tennessee State University and former Health Equity Chair of the American Medical Student Association's Reach Committee, has been immersed in the Top 20 Drugs survey data, and will be working with us on various PharmedOut projects over the coming months.
  • PharmedOut's Resource of the Month: If you won't allow pharma sales reps at your office, let your patients know with PharmedOut's "No Drug Reps" certificate.
March's PharmedOut Fodder: Attention Deficit Disorder/
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

On March 12, Express Scripts released a report entitled "Turning Attention to ADHD: U.S. Medication Trends for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder". Their pharmacy claims data showed a 36% increase in Americans taking ADHD medication in just the past five years. Adult use is much more prevalent than in previous years, increasing 53% versus a 19% increase in child use. Additionally, use in women ages 26-34 has risen a substantial 85%, while young girls are still only prescribed the drugs half as often as boys.

Coverage of the report's findings and other ADD/ADHD news stories dominated in March. Early in the month, Reuters reported a study that found that childhood ADHD is linked to obesity in teens, though "the kids in this study were not on medication for ADHD." However, a couple of weeks later, they reported another study indicating that ADHD medications may be tied to teenage weight gain after all. 

For TIME magazine, Dr. Richard Saul wrote the provocative piece "ADHD Does Not Exist". Duke professor of psychiatry Allen Frances commented that he does not fully agree with Dr. Saul, but does believe ADD and ADHD are overdiagnosed.

Why the drive in ADHD diagnoses and drug prescriptions, besides a sudden epidemic? Explanatory theories abounded this month, such as NBC News' article "Could School Testing Be Driving ADHD?". An interdisciplinary approach may be required to identify and combat overuse of these medications.

For a great background on expanded marketing efforts by ADD/ADHD drug manufacturers, check out Alan Schwarz's December 2013 article "The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder" and check back in with him for more ADD news.


News Round-Up 
(for more, please follow @pharmed_out on Twitter!)

This month, ProPublica updated their wildly useful Dollars for Docs database with new 2013 data. Find industry payments to physician and other information by state, drug, company and more:

March 3: ProPublica: "As Full Disclosure Nears, Doctors’ Pay for Drug Talks Plummets"

March 4: "Nearly 1,000 sue Medtronic over Infuse bone growth product

March 5: ANSA: "Novartis and Roche fined over 180 mn euros by anti-trust"

March 13: Wall Street Journal: "The Pharmaceutical Sales Rep Lives to Fight Another Day"

March 15: Long Island Newsday: "Novartis gave doctors thousands to prescribe pills, feds allege"

March 17: New York Times "Well": "A Surgical Procedure’s Risks, Unmentioned"

March 17: Bloomberg: "Glaxo to Bring Doctors In-House as Educational Speakers"

March 19: Pacific Business News: "Hawaii attorney general sues makers of drug Plavix alleging unfair and deceptive marketing"

March 21: Kaiser Health News: "FDA Finds Medical Device Recalls Nearly Doubled In 10 Years"

March 24: The Atlantic: "For Depression, Prescribing Exercise Before Medication"

March 25: The Boston Globe: "Doctors draw critics for aid from drug firms"

March 25: Wall Street Journal: "A High Stakes Battle Over Testosterone"

March 26: Medscape: "Statin Expansion: Hold the Rx"

March 26: Bloomberg: "Obamacare Spurs Merck, Glaxo to End Co-Pay Aid; Boost to Middle Class a Kickback?"

March 28: ProPublica: "Reporting Recipe: Dollars for Docs"

March 28: Reuters: "U.S. wants at least $1 billion from drugmakers who delay generics"

March 31: FiercePharma: "Massachusetts bans Zogenix's controversial new painkiller Zohydro"

If you know of any events that should be featured in the 
PharmedOut newsletter, please let us know!

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