August 2015 Newsletter

Recent Project News

  • At the end of June, PharmedOut published "Hypoactive sexual desire disorder: inventing a disease to sell low libido" in the Journal of Medical Ethics. It discusses the concept of "condition branding" and how the company that developed the "female Viagra" drug flibanserin created continuing medical education (CME) modules on hypoactive sexual desire disorder to prepare the market for flibanserin.
  • On July 13th, PharmedOut (in conjunction with the New View Campaign) sent a pair of letter to FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff asking him to support the integrity of the drug approval process by rejecting flibanserin. Hundreds of researchers and clinicians signed on as well. You can read the letters here.
  • On July 31st, Dr. Fugh-Berman spoke at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's annual international conference, "Nutrition in Medicine: Cardiovascular Disease", about how drugs have been promoted for cardiovascular disease in a way that undercuts diet and exercise. Here are slides from her presentation.

    The PharmedOut team tabling at the PCRM conference.
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August's PharmedOut Fodder:

Let's Keep Transparency in CME


On July 10th, the 21st Century Cures Act passed the House of Representatives. It now moves on to the Senate, and we hope it will die there. We've expressed concerns about the law, and what it would do to lower FDA standards for drug and device approvals, but there's more. Section 3041 of 21st Century Cures would eliminate the Affordable Care Act's Physician Payments Sunshine Act reporting requirements in CME. Therefore, the Pharma-sponsored "educational" conferences for providers would not have to report gifts and payments made to participating physicians.  

One of PharmedOut's founding principles back in 2006 was to root out Pharma influence from CME activities. Unfortunately, 
financial relationships between CME and Pharma are still incredibly strong. According to the Accrediting Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), commercial support for CME rose from $659.9 million in 2013 to $675.9 million in 2014. Advertising in CME has also risen over $100 million in nine years.
Pharma praises this 21st Century Cures provision, calling the reporting requirement a deterrent to physicians participating in CME. If there was nothing wrong with Pharma-sponsored CME, why would physicians be deterred?

Experts have already confirmed that transparency for physicians' financial relationships with Pharma is a good thing. In a 2009 Senate hearing on this topic, Dr. James Scully of the American Psychiatric Association testified that "patients should know about their physicians' potential conflicts of interest where they truly exist. Only then can they have confidence in decisions made about their medical care." Dr. Fugh-Berman submitted testimony emphasizing that drugmakers sponsor CME for a reason: it is shown to increase product sales. 

As a side note, hotel and restaurant workers who serve the physicians wined and dined by Pharma during CME events are voicing their disapproval of industry sponsorship. This month, it was reported that the UNITE HERE hotel workers union is petitioning against these events because they believe industry influence affects their high drug costs.  

We agree with UNITE HERE and many others that Pharma should be kept out of CME, period. But reporting requirements in CME were an important step that we must not walk back.

If you don't want the Senate to vote in favor of a bill that may not only harm patient safety through lax regulation, but also reinstate a cloudy, secretive policy surrounding physician relationships with Pharma, please contact your Senators' offices to voice your opinion today.

Check These Out!

Getting surgery anytime soon? ProPublica just released its new Surgeon Scorecard, which calculates death and complication rates of certain procedures done by surgeons.

Sign this "No More Drug Money" petition to the ACCME to get the pharmaceutical industry out of continuing medical education for providers.

Some "peer-reviewed journals" are not legitimate. Here's a helpful list of those deemed "potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers".

News Round-Up

(For more, follow @Pharmed_Out on Twitter!)

July 30

"A Congressional Attempt To Speed The Development Of Lifesaving Treatments", The Diane Rehm Show 

July 27

"Disclosure of Boxed Warnings to Research Participants" by Tanya Bhattacharya, Debra G. Tice, Pranathi Lingam, Aleksandra Florek, Eileen M. Yates, Sigmund Weitzman, and Steven M. Belknap (JAMA Internal Medicine) 

"UK May Require Doctors to Report Their Financial Ties to Drug Makers" by Ed Silverman (WSJ Pharmalot) 

July 23

"Most Americans say Drug Costs are Unreasonable and They Blame Pharma" by Ed Silverman (WSJ Pharmalot) 

"Drug Prices Soar, Prompting Calls for Justification" by Andrew Pollack (New York Times)

"One big myth about medicine: We know how drugs work" by Carolyn Johnson (Washington Post) 

July 22

"Scientists Are Hoarding Data And It’s Ruining Medical Research" by Ben Goldacre (Buzzfeed News) 

"More Than 100 Doctors Tell Big Pharma To Stop Making Cancer Drugs So Expensive" by Tara Culp-Ressler (ThinkProgress) 

"Are Boastful Claims in Drug Ads Seen as Proxies for Effectiveness?" by Ed Silverman (WSJ Pharmalot) 

July 21

"Rising U.S. Drug Prices Are Focus of Research Grant" by Peter Loftus (Wall Street Journal) 

July 20

"Judging a Pill by Its Color" by Ann Lukits (Wall Street Journal) 

July 16

"To Support Physician Decision-Making, Re-Evaluate Industry Funding Of Science" by Christopher Robertson (Health Affairs)

July 14

"Conflicts of Interest on Institutional Review Boards Remain Problematic" by Ed Silverman (WSJ Pharmalot) 

July 13

"Gilead Pills Priced at $1,000 a Day Are Found Cost-Effective" by Doni Bloomfield (Bloomberg)

"Making The Cut: Why choosing the right surgeon matters even more than you know" by Marshall Allen and Olga Pierce (ProPublica)

July 12

"Popular blood thinner causing deaths, injuries in nursing homes" by Charles Ornstein (Washington Post) 

July 10

"This bill promises to speed up drug approvals so much that it’s making people uncomfortable" by Carolyn Johnson (Washington Post)

"Harvard researchers tested 23 online ‘symptom checkers.’ Most got failing grades. Here’s how they stack up." by Ariana Eunjung Cha (Washington Post)

"The Double Mastectomy Rebellion" by Lucette Lagnado (Wall Street Journal)

July 8

"Health Buzz: Study Concludes Mammograms Lead to Overdiagnosis" by Samantha Costa (U.S. News and World Report) 

July 7

"Improve Health Care: Track Artificial Hips" by Peter R. Orszag (Bloomberg View) 

"Heroin Use Surges, Especially Among Women And Whites" by Richard Harris (NPR)

July 6

"Transparency Program Obscures Pharma Payments to Nurses, Physician Assistants" by Charles Ornstein (ProPublica)

"Evaluation of Flibanserin: Science and Advocacy at the FDA" by Walid F. Gellad, Kathryn E. Flynn, G. Caleb Alexander (JAMA)

"'Female Viagra' a political tightrope for FDA, advisors warn" by Melissa Healy (L.A. Times)

July 1

"Industry Payments To Doctors Are Ingrained, Federal Data Show" by Charles Ornstein and Ryan Grochowski Jones (NPR)

June 30

"Hotel Workers Want to End Pharma Support of Continuing Medical Ed" by Ed Silverman (WSJ Pharmalot) 

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