It was a big week for the AMSA Scorecard, which popped up in the New York Times story about Harvard Medical School’s extensive ties to industry and what some medical students and faculty are doing to bring them to light. The story topped the most-read column on the nytimes.com site for a few days and sent Sen. Charles Grassley back to his writing desk, where PostScript imagines he writes all his letters to wayward drug companies and non-disclosing academics. This time he wrote to Pfizer, asking for the details of payments to 149 Harvard medical school faculty revealed in the article, and for any information the company has on the amateur photos of a medical student rally at Harvard in November snapped by one of its employees.
Time magazine had this look at AMSA’s campaign to get prescription drug money out of medical education. “The school might have turned a whole new shade of crimson when its flunking grade from AMSA was made public last summer,” Time wrote of Harvard’s now very public F on the Scorecard.
AdvaMed, the medical device industry’s trade association has introduced new guidelines for direct-to-consumer advertisements. The guidelines, which are voluntary, suggest that device ads should be consumer-friendly, and can feature celebrities, but while they may be friendly, they won’t protect consumers, RxP’s Marcia Hams told Reuters.
Federal prosecutors will begin to single out and prosecute doctors who accept kickbacks for prescribing, according to this New York Times story. In the past, prosecutors have taken on the companies rather than the doctors, because they believed juries would not convict respected clinicians, a strategy that they say is about to change.
“What we need to do is make examples of a couple of doctors so that their colleagues see that this isn’t worth it,” Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services told the Times. “We want to send the message to the physician community — particularly surgeons — that you can’t do this.”
And in the wake of the Wyeth v Levine decision at the Supreme Court this week, Congressional leaders are preparing to introduce a law that would overrule the Court’s Riegel v. Medtronic decision, which established that consumers injured by a medical device could not seek recourse in state courts because federal law pre-empts it.
“Any impact of the Wyeth decision for device companies would depend on whether Congress does respond by overriding the device decision by the Supreme Court last year,” wrote the Times. “That ruling said the 1976 law giving the F.D.A. authority over medical devices had also provided a legal shield to devices that undergo the agency’s highest level of review.”
In the heartland, a bill that would limit gifts to doctors, require physician payments to be disclosed and creates an academic detailing program has passed the full Health Committee in the Iowa legislature.
Read more about the original bill in the Des Moines Register.
This in-depth story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel looks at the new conflict-of-interest rules drafted by a task force at the University of Wisconsin. If approved, the rules would prohibit physicians from doing ‘dinner talks’ for drug companies and require faculty to disclose specific amounts of payments from drug and device companies, to within $1000. The current policies received a strong B grade on the AMSA Scorecard in 2008.
“When the spotlight of impropriety is shone on an institution, they either create a set of policies or they establish an office,” COI expert Eric Campbell told the Journal-Sentinel, noting that enforcement of any final policies is just as critical as the policies themselves.
A goof by the IRS has revealed some previously undisclosed donations to a charity Sen. Orrin Hatch started and for which he is still a booster. Payments by five pharmaceutical companies and PhRMA to the Utah Families Foundation far exceed what the companies could donate to Sen. Hatch’s re-election campaign.
“The donations, $172,500 in all, came at the same time that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) was paying one of Mr. Hatch’s sons, Scott, to be its lobbyist in Congress,” wrote the Washington Times, which obtained the documents.
And just when we thought everyone had stopped asking, the Associated Press went and did it again: Is the FDA a broken agency?
“Bet yourself a new hat or a fine dinner that you are going to have a scandal a month,” Rep. John Dingell, (D-MI) told the paper. “They are running around like a lot of headless chickens.”