Everything you ever wanted to know about… ‘patient groups’

Well, not EVERYTHING of course! This is the fourth post in a series that recaps (in one handy place) all I’ve written so far about a particular subject. The first three ‘everythings’ have been about Alastair Benbow, Ian Hudson and Serotonin.

But what about these patient groups I hear you ask…

I’ve written quite a lot on this subject, as I feel strongly about it. The collected posts run to four pages. You’ll learn about a complex cast of characters and organisations that include:

Jim Thomson & Amelia Mustapha, Rodney Elgie, Neil Bindemann, Dr Chris Manning, Innervate Ltd, The Centre for Mental Health, The Healthwell.org, The European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, Depression Alliance, The Diabetes Monitoring Forum, Primhe, the antidepressant Cymbalta, Eli Lilly, Boehringer Ingleheim, National Depression Week, MediSense, a division of Abbott Laboratories, GAMIAN-Europe, the European Patients Forum, the International Alliance of Patient Organisations, The European Patient Information Channel, Packer Forbes, the Medicom Group, the (non-existent) All Party Parliamentary Group on Depression, the Partnership for Safe Medicines, The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the Alliance for Better Medicare, Citizens for Better Medicare, Action for Access, Breaking through Barriers – Depression: The Painful Truth, Astroturfing, European Depression Day and the European Depression Association.

Jim Thomson himself has told me “What you have “uncovered” is a tissue of conjecture and you are, clearly, a master at putting two next to two and seeing several dozen.” He says it’s all a “fifth-form conspiracy theory.” That might be the case – please follow this link to the four pages of collected posts and you can make your own mind up… I suggest you read from page four backwards to page one to get the full chronological flow!

I think there are a lot of questions to be answered and as you read about these people and organisations just remember Jim’s own words “…ask yourself one question… What does this person, or this organisation, have to gain from taking this position?”

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“Continuing medical education – a great way to educate physicians”…!

I kid you not – someone out there really said that – but it was Scott Lassman and he’s senior assistant general counsel at Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) – so we can all trust what he says… NOT.

He went further and defended the practice of discussing off-label uses for drugs — uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration — in the courses. “A lot of times, the regulatory process lags behind the science,” he said. “I think it’s a benefit for physicians…”

But what about the patients, Scott?

“Most of what doctors know about drugs comes from the industry, and that’s not healthy,” said Jerry Avorn, a Harvard Medical School professor and critic of the sponsorships. “Academic organizations lend their names to courses that are nothing more than infomercials.”

For doctors, though, drug company funding “makes it very difficult to know what research to believe,” said J. Gregory Rosenthal, an Ohio retinal surgeon and a founder of Physicians for Clinical Responsibility, a group pushing for tighter controls on conflicts of interest in medicine. “Even at the (specialty) academy level, you can’t go onto a Web site without being confronted by sponsorship logos.”

Rosenthal will testify today in a hearing before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which is looking into physician links with the drug industry. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), the chairman, said the commercial sponsorship of courses creates a conflict of interest.

“It appears that everyone profits from this pervasive system of gifts and payments, except the consumer,” Kohl said.

Read the entire article here (by Elizabeth Williamson and Christopher Lee in the Washington Post).

You can learn more about Shire Pharmaceuticals and the latest Continuing Medical Education (CME) scam here at The Carlat Psychiatry Blog.

[Thanks to Ken K for alerting me to this.]

Psychiatrists Top List in Drug Maker Gifts

From the New York Times:

As states begin to require that drug companies disclose their payments to doctors for lectures and other services, a pattern has emerged: psychiatrists earn more money from drug makers than doctors in any other specialty.

How this money may be influencing psychiatrists and other doctors has become one of the most contentious issues in health care. For instance, the more psychiatrists have earned from drug makers, the more they have prescribed a new class of powerful medicines known as atypical antipsychotics to children, for whom the drugs are especially risky and mostly unapproved.

Vermont officials disclosed Tuesday that drug company payments to psychiatrists in the state more than doubled last year, to an average of $45,692 each from $20,835 in 2005. Antipsychotic medicines are among the largest expenses for the state’s Medicaid program.

Over all last year, drug makers spent $2.25 million on marketing payments, fees and travel expenses to Vermont doctors, hospitals and universities, a 2.3 percent increase over the prior year, the state said.

Still, a similar pattern was evident in a Minnesota database that was the subject of a series of articles in The New York Times this year. As in Vermont, psychiatrists earned on aggregate the most in Minnesota, with payments ranging from $51 to $689,000. The Times found that psychiatrists who took the most money from makers of antipsychotic drugs tended to prescribe the drugs to children the most often.

Read the whole story by Gardiner Harris here

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