For years, the nation's largest drug and medical device manufacturers have courted doctors with consulting fees, free trips to exotic locales and sponsoring the educational conferences that physicians attend.
Those financial ties in most cases need not be disclosed and can lead to arrangements that some say improperly influence medical care.
Gee, ya think? Could that possibly be how WLS and lap-band and all the useless weight loss drugs got their start?
Now, under the threat of regulation from Congress, the two industries are promising to be more forthcoming about their spending. A dozen of the nation's leading drug and device makers have told Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that they have plans or are working on plans to publicly disclose grants to outside groups. The details will be provided on each company's Web sites.
Yeah, right. I'll believe it when I see it (and how much do you want to bet they pick and choose what will be reported?). "We gave this much money to these doctors/hospitals (but we aren't going to tell you it was to promote this drug or this procedure, nopenopenope)."
Watchdog groups say the companies are trying to derail legislation that would require public disclosure of their giving.
"If they were doing this out of the goodness of their heart, they would have done so decades ago," said Dr. Peter Lurie of the consumer group Public Citizen.
Of course they want to derail legislation requiring public disclosure of their giving. If they do it of their own free will, they have control of what they're releasing. If it's legislated, the law has control of what information they have to release. What do you want to bet they'll get this tabled by going for voluntary public disclosure?
If all of the companies follow through with their commitments to Grassley, there also would be widespread disclosure of how much money they give patient advocacy groups. The groups rely on industry for much of their financing. For example, the American Heart Association said donations from the pharmaceutical and device industry make up about 6 percent of its annual income, and totaled $48.3 million in the organization's latest fiscal year.
"Donations from corporations, including the pharmaceutical and device industry, allow us to further enhance our programs and outreach, and to bring objective science and the highest quality of public education and information to more people," said Maggie Francis, the association's communications manager.
Objective science? Highest quality of public education and information? What fucking planet is she living on? There's nothing objective about the science when pharmaceutical companies start research on a drug and change the endpoints because the first glimmerings of results aren't panning out the way big pharma thought they would and won't help them get this new drug on the market so they can make a ton of money off scaring us (Alli, anyone? Xenical? How about Vytorin?).
The disclosure of medical education grants is an extension of that concept. Last year, the staff for the Senate Finance Committee issued a report that said the drug industry may be using the "medical education industry to deliver favorable messages about off-label uses that the drug companies cannot legally deliver on their own."
The committee report noted that Warner-Lambert, now owned by Pfizer Inc., paid $430 million to settle claims that medical conferences it sponsored were used to illegally promote off-label uses of the anti-seizure drug Neurontin. Serono-Laboratories paid $704 million to settle a similar claim concerning the AIDS drug Serostim.
Does this really surprise anyone? Do pharmaceutical companies really care if they're cited and fined? They've already made billions of dollars, so what's a few million in fines? Part of the cost of doing business, in their books, I imagine. Certainly not enough to keep them from doing it again, and again, and again. As long as the fines and/or consequences don't amount to more than a slap on the wrist and a "No, no, you mustn't do this again", they will keep on with their propaganda machine and we, the consumers, will suffer the consequences of poor drug choices/medical decisions foisted on us by the doctors in the pay of pharmaceutical companies.