The American Psychiatric Association has voted to end industry-funded CME offerings at its annual meeting, as well as to phase out meals from drug companies. The industry-sponsored symposia netted up to $1.5 million per year for the association, which is the first to take such a step.
Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline has announced it will publicly report clinical trial payments to investigators and their institutions beginning in 2010. The announcement comes after the company’s initial pledge in October to disclose consulting payments to doctors and cap such payments at $150,000 per physician, per year. GSK joins Medtronic, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Merck, which have each made pledges to some sort of voluntary disclosure.
The New York Times reported this week that the popular online quiz “RealAge” shares the names and results to drug companies, which pay RealAge to send personalized drug ads to targeted quiz-takers. “While few people would fill out a detailed questionnaire about their health and hand it over to a drug company looking for suggestions for new medications, that is essentially what RealAge is doing,” wrote the Times. “It acts as a clearinghouse for drug companies, including Pfizer, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline, allowing them to use almost any combination of answers from the test to find people to market to.”
In an editorial last week, JAMA issued a new policy for those who report undisclosed conflicts of interest. The editorial comes in response to a dispute between JAMA editors and two researchers who contacted the journal about an undisclosed conflict of interest by an author in the journal last year. After five months without hearing from JAMA staff, the researchers submitted a letter about the conflict to BMJ. After JAMA editors called one of the researchers, Dr. Jonathan Leo, and his dean in efforts to get him to retract the letter, they published this policy, which says that researchers who have discovered an unpublished conflict of interest in the journal should not contact any third party until JAMA has completed its own investigation.
The new policy has raised concern among some in the academic and medical publishing communities for its claims on public information and its potential silencing effect on those who discover conflicts of interest. Among them: Gooznews, Howard Brody and HealthCare Renewal.
Here’s the Wall Street Journal coverage.
The head of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. W. Douglas Weaver, argues on the Detroit Free-Press opinion page that a few bad apples are no reason to move away from drug company-funded continuing medical education.
“Industry needs physicians — we help develop new products, conduct clinical trials and prescribe products — and physicians need education.” But Weaver makes the questionable jump that these two facts together means that physicians need industry-funded education.
The Macy report on CME funding provides an eloquent rebuttal to that argument, better than we could do:
Companies with billions of dollars at stake cannot be expected to be neutral or objective when assessing the benefits, harms, and cost-effectiveness of their products, for they are in the legitimate business of gaining market advantage and want clinicians to use and prescribe their products….
Because of these underlying ethical issues, participants concluded that the commercial entities that manufacture and sell healthcare products should not provide financial support for the continuing education of health professionals.”
Still, Weaver writes “it will be critical to address conflicts of interest” with bills such as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which would require drug and device companies to disclose all payments to doctors in a public, online database.
And we bid farewell to Scott Hensley, the original Wall Street Journal Health blogger, who kept us in the know about the pharma and health care world with his incisive, quick-witted reporting. We’re sorry to see you go, Scott. Guess it’s time for us to learn to Twitter.