November 2015 Newsletter

Recent Project News

  • Former PharmedOut interns Antonie Meixel, MD and Elena Yanchar, MD’s paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics “How continuing medical education was used to sell hypoactive sexual desire disorder” was picked up in international news including Wired, Segre, El Diario, La Opinión, Noticia al Dia, Efe Salud, Globo, and Caracol Radio.
  • Ever wonder who writes this newsletter? Nicole Dubowitz, former PharmedOut project manager extraordinaire and current MPH student at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, generates the wonderful prose that you read every month. So wonderful, in fact, that last month's Fodder was picked up by the Hasting Center’s Bioethics Forum. (Editorial note added by Alycia Hogenmiller.)
  • On October 14th, Dr. Fugh-Berman's quote from last year's Slate article on "female Viagra" drug flibanserin/Addyi was picked up in the Alternet article "Addyi: Not the Women's Sex Pill You've Been Waiting For" by Sally Chew. She said, “women are more complicated, it’s not just increasing blood flow" that raises their libido.
  • On October 18th, Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in MedPage Today on bias in commercially funded continuing medical education (CME) for doctors. In "CME: Controversial Curricula Draw Fire" by John Fauber, Dr. Fugh-Berman said that "industry funded CME always sells the disease ...[and] in some cases, those diseases are invented."
  • To coincide with Addyi entering the marketplace in October, we created a fact sheet for physicians and other prescribers on the drug's indication, adverse effects, and interactions with other medications and alcohol. We provide better information on the true risks of Addyi than the risk management program required by the FDA to become an Addyi prescriber.
  • PharmedOut appreciates all our donors. But we were really surprised and honored by a gift we received this month — a box of beautiful handmade scarves from Sue Parry to keep us warm all throughout the cold D.C. winter. Thank you, Sue!

Dr. Fugh-Berman and Alycia Hogenmiller showing off the lovely scarves made by Sue Parry.
PharmedOut's Resource of the Month: Recently added to the PharmedOut Advocacy page are three new factsheets on Addyi: 10 Drug-Free Ways to Improve Your Sex Life by Leonore Tiefer, the Top 10 Things to Know About Addyi from the National Women's Health Network, and PharmedOut’s Addyi Facts.

November's PharmedOut Fodder:

Pharma University

After completing four rigorous years of medical schools, and up to six more in residency, doctors in 46 states are required to obtain continuing medical education (CME) credits every year in order to keep up with the medical times and retain their licenses to practice. After all, why wouldn't we want our physicians to continue learning about the latest updates in medicine?

Like communism, what sounds good in theory does not always work in practice. CME has unfortunately been an example of that. The issue received increased attention this past month thanks to John Fauber's coverage in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and their four-part series "Risk/Reward", on various ways in which how the pharmaceutical industry funds CME in order to promote new or upcoming drugs to doctors.

We have talked about bias in CME before; in fact, it is one of the first issues PharmedOut addressed when we formed in 2006. Around that time, Congress started investigating pharmaceutical companies for using CME for marketing purposes. In response, many companies turned away from CME, spending 32% less on the courses between 2007 and 2010.

But, as Fauber shows, "that funding is again on the rise." Pharma spending on courses today is back to pre-investigation levels and is an almost $3 billion industry. However, due to heightened scrutiny and stricter rules regarding relationships with Pharma, much of the money that used to go to CME offices in academic medical centers and hospitals is now going to medical education companies that technically host the CME courses.

As part of the Physicians Payment Sunshine Act provision of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration has sought to require payment disclosure when these third party medical education companies are involved. CMS's Open Payments currently requires disclosure of indirect payments to physicians through third parties starting in 2017 (unless the 21st Century Cures Act passes, which contains a CME exemption along with many other anti-public health provisions).

PharmedOut supports this disclosure and calls for an end to pharma-funded CME courses. Until then, perhaps every pharma-funded CME invitation, course, and certificate should be prominently labeled "Pharma University"

Check These Out!

As part of its four-part "Risk/Reward" series in October, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel released an interactive report on "The Dark Money of Medicine: How Drug Companies Funnel Money into Continuing Medical Education Programs."

Take a look at this slideshow on old drugs with new prices.

The Children's Mental Health Seminar will take place on Saturday, December 5th at Bowie State University in Maryland. Six CEU credits will be available and there are parent scholarships and student discounts on admission. See the list of speakers and register here.

News Round-Up

(For more, follow @Pharmed_Out on Twitter!)

October 29

How Government Policy Promotes High Drug Prices by Alfred Engelberg (Health Affairs Blog)

Former Executive at Allergan Unit Arrested on Kickback Charge by Peter Loftus (Wall Street Journal)

‘Revolutionary.’ ‘Game changer.’ ‘Miracle.’ How much are we hyping unproven cancer drugs? by Brady Dennis (Washington Post)

Half of the cancer drugs journalists called "miracles" and "cures" were not approved by the FDA by Julia Belluz (Vox)

October 28

At top U.S. hospital, almost 50 percent of surgeries have drug-related error by Lena H. Sun (Washington Post)

Newly studied sleep medication can cause unwanted side effects (WRAL)

October 27

Disturbing New Study Finds Medication Errors In Half Of All Surgeries Robert J. Szczerba (Forbes)

Novartis to pay $390M to settle kickback case, but will execs pay a price? by Ed Silverman (Stat Pharmalot)

October 26

Op-Ed: The CME Industry Slams Slippery Slope Series by Andrew M. Rosenberg (MedPage Today)

The Truth About Homeopathy by Lauren Cooper (Consumer Reports)

October 25

Psychologists charged in $25 million nursing home fraud scheme by Emily Mongan (McKnight's)

October 21

Many Antidepressant Studies Found Tainted by Pharma Company Influence by Roni Jacobson (Scientific American)

October 20

New Approach Advised to Treat Schizophrenia by Benedict Carey (New York Times)

In major shift, new guidelines scale back breast cancer screenings for younger women by Ariana Eunjung Cha (Washington Post)

October 19

Drug Makers Sidestep Barriers on Pricing by Andrew Pollack (New York Times)

October 18

CME: Controversial Curricula Draw Fire by John Fauber (MedPage Today)

October 17

Testosterone courses downplay risks, lead to overuse in older men by John Fauber, Coulter Jones and Kristina Fiore (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Industry also funds courses on diet, sexual desire drugs by John Fauber (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Wary of conflicts, universities taking less money from drug companies by John Fauber and Coulter Jones (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

The 'female Viagra' is available to women now, though fears persist about its dangers by Patrick Kulp (Mashable)

October 15

Bernie Sanders Rejects Donation From Greedy Pharma CEO Martin Shkreli by James Woods (U.S. Uncut)

Dietary supplements and other herbals send 23,000 people to the emergency room every year by Julia Belluz (Vox)

October 14

The FDA Could Earn Over $60 Million A Day From Enforcing The Law by Stuart Buck (Health Affairs Blog)

Health Canada requires doctor to sign confidentiality agreement to see drug data by Kelly Crowe (CBC News)

Dr. Oz’s new season features more science and less bull**** by Julia Belluz (Vox)

October 8

Bill Would Add Nurses, Physician Assistants to Pharma Payments Database by Charles Ornstein (ProPublica)

California Approves Laws To Cut Use Of Antipsychotics In Foster Care by Elaine Korry (NPR)

October 6

Senator Calls on FDA to Reduce ANDA Backlog by Zachary Brennan (Regulatory Focus)

October 5

How Martin Shkreli prevents generic versions of his pricey pill by Ed Silverman (Stat Pharmalot)

October 4

Valeant’s Drug Price Strategy Enriches It, but Infuriates Patients and Lawmakers by Andrew Pollack and Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times)

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