PharmedOut Newsletter, June 2014

Recent Project News

  • In April, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) announced their decision to ban corporate logos from accredited educational materials for doctors. We believe this contradicts ACCME's stated commitment to transparency, and voiced our concerns in this May 19 Bioethics Forum article.
  • Dr. Fugh-Berman was interviewed for Nightline's May 21 story, "Fight Over 'Little Pink Pill' Raises Sexism Questions". She said that the FDA's rejection of flibanserin (also known as "female Viagra") is due to the product's unproven benefits for a questionable condition, not gender bias.
  • On May 19th, Dr. Fugh-Berman spoke on an American Society for Men's Health panel at the American Urological Association's annual conference. The topic was cardiovascular risks of testosterone therapy, and Dr. Fugh-Berman spoke alongside Bill Finkle PhD, who authored a testosterone study that identified cardiovascular risks, and Abraham Morgentaler MD, who has called for a retraction of a JAMA study that found similar results. Drugwatch covered some of the debate arguments here.
  • On May 22nd and 23rd, Dr. Fugh-Berman addressed the CME committee at the Roger Williams Medical Center and presented Grand Rounds at both Roger Williams and Hasbro Children's Hospital/Department of Pediatrics at Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, RI.
  • PharmedOut's Resource of the Month: Our consumer articles help inform wide audiences about the effects that pharmaceutical marketing can have on healthcare.
May's PharmedOut Fodder: The Bullying of Journal Editors

Peer-reviewed academic journals must be held to a high standard, but there have been a spate of spurious calls for retractions of articles that make conclusions that industry doesn't like. For example, the Androgen Study Group was recently formed in order to refute "several flawed testosterone trials whose conclusions have already caused unnecessary concern and confusion among healthcare providers and their patients." They called for a retraction of the aforementioned JAMA article that linked testosterone to cardiovascular problems. (In March, JAMA refused to retract the study.) The Androgen Study Group's mailing address is the same as testosterone promoter Abraham Morgentaler, who has consulted for Auxilium, Eli Lilly, and AbbVie, makers of testosterone products Testim, Axiron, and Androgel respectively.

BMJ has accumulated attacks by industry-funded critics on several studies and editor Fiona Godlee. Especially under Godlee's tenure, BMJ has been a strong proponent of data transparency. The most recent attacks regards a minor error in an article that rightly calls the use of statins in those with low risk of cardiovascular disease unnecessary. Industry-funded individuals and entities have called for a retraction of the article, and BMJ has convened a commitee to look at the issue.

This past January, Dr. Fugh-Berman and Tom Sherman PhD wrote about Food and Chemical Toxicology's eventual retraction of a study showing that a combination of genetically-modified foods (GMOs) and the herbicide RoundUp caused cancer and early death in rats. Many of the study's vocal critics had undisclosed financial relationships with Monsanto, which makes both RoundUp and GMOs.

Back in 1992, the Annals of Internal Medicine published an article showing that pharmaceutical ads were sometimes inaccurate; advertising plummeted and the Annals co-editors Suzanne and Robert Fletcher were cold-shouldered into resigning their positions. Calling for retractions appears to be a new tactic for bullying journals. At risk are researcher reputations, scientific independence, and patient care.

This open letter supports BMJ and Godlee, and sends an important message that we stand by journals' scientifically based interpretations of data. Please sign the letter  and send it to others to sign as well.

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

April 13-16: The Denver Post: "Prescription Kids" series

April 23: USC Annenberg's Reporting on Health: "Q&A: The Denver Post Spotlights Psychotropic Drug Use among Foster Kids"

May 5: Kaiser Health News: "Who Should Get Pricey Hepatitis C Drugs?"

May 5: The New Yorker: "Prescription for Disaster: The Heartland's Pain-Pills Problem"

May 6: Wall Street Journal: "Q&A: The Great Pharmaceutical Garage Sale of 2014"

May 9: PharmaGossip: "Botox Victim Wins $18 Million"

May 10: NPR: "When A Cholesterol Test Becomes A Vice Instead Of A Virtue"

May 13: U.S. News and World Report: "Osteoporosis Drugs' Long-Term Use Needs More Research: FDA"

May 13: The New York Times: "Doubts Raised About Off-Label Use of Subsys, a Strong Painkiller"

May 14: Forbes: "Health Insurance Giants To Unveil Price Information In 2015

May 14: The New York Times: "Looking For the Final Word on Treatment"

May 14: Business Insider: Antidepressant Use Has Exploded Since 1988"

May 17: The Huffington Post: "10,000 Young Toddlers Are on Stimulant Drugs for ADHD"

May 19: Orlando Sentinel: "Brevard oncologist loses $89M Medicare fraud judgment",0,

May 19: The Daily Beast: "Why Giving Adderall to Toddlers Is So Completely, Utterly Wrong"

May 19: Reuters: "GSK dodged millions in China drug tax scam: state media"

May 20: NPR: "Following Abuses, Medicare Tightens Reins On Its Drug Program"

May 20: Regulatory Focus: "FDA Warning Letter to Sun Pharma Finds Trash Bags of Data and Secret Studies"

May 22: MedPage Today: "On Conflicts of Interest, Stossel: What, Me Worry?"

May 22: MedPage Today: "Medicaid Directors Question Need for $1,000 HCV Pill"

May 23: Science: "A Lonely Crusade"

May 25: Tech Times: "Which doctors charge Medicare the most for your routine visits? You'll be surprised to know"

May 26: ABC Australia: "Johnson & Johnson 'failed to take action' on defective hip implants"

May 29: PharmaGossip: "Medtronic pay up: Los Angeles Attorney Mychal Wilson Wins Another Fortune 500 Whistleblower Case"

Check These Out!

"What Evidence is Essential for New Medical Products? Implications for Patients and Health Policy", an event highlighting the public health implications of medical product regulation criteria, will take place June 13th at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Register for free here.

ProPublica's recently launched Treatment Tracker enables you to easily compare physicians' practice patterns.

Did you know about half of clinical trial data on drugs has never been published? The AllTrials campaign continues to try to change this and release crucial treatment information. Watch their new video and sign the petition here.

Next time someone suggests a correlation indicates causation, just direct them to this website.


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