Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Docs Take Pharma Money to Hype Cancer Drugs on Twitter & Don't Disclose It!

Docs Take Pharma Money to Hype Cancer Drugs on Twitter & Don't Disclose It! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Some cancer doctors use Twitter to promote drugs manufactured by companies that pay them, but they almost never disclose their conflicts of interest on the social media platform, a new study shows.


“This is a big problem,” said senior author Dr. Vinay Prasad, a professor at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. “Doctors are directly telling patients about their views on drugs, and financial conflict plays a role. But they’re not telling patients they have a conflict.”


Prasad and his colleagues analyzed the tweets and income of blood cancer specialists who posted regularly on Twitter and received at least $1,000 from drug manufacturers in 2014.


Of the 156 hematologist-oncologists in the study, 81 percent mentioned at least one drug from a company that gave them money, and 52 percent of their tweets mentioned the conflicted drugs, according to a study reported in a letter in The Lancet.


Earlier this year, Prasad published his first study on tweeting doctors. Nearly 80 percent of more than 600 U.S. hematologist-oncologists who tweeted had a conflict, his report in JAMA Internal Medicine found.


Celebrities use the hashtag #sponsored when they tweet about products from companies that pay them, Prasad said.


“Maybe we can learn something from the celebrities here,” he said.

rosywills's comment, September 22, 2017 4:01 AM
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U.S. Seeks Records of 80,000 Novartis `Sham' Events for Doctors

U.S. Seeks Records of 80,000 Novartis `Sham' Events for Doctors | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

The U.S. is asking Novartis AG to provide records of about 80,000 “sham” events in which the government says doctors were wined and dined so they would prescribe the company’s cardiovascular drugs to their patients.

The Swiss drugmaker and the Manhattan U.S. Attorney are engaged in a whistle-blower lawsuit that alleges Novartis provided illegal kickbacks to health-care providers through bogus educational programs at high-end restaurants and sports bars where the drugs were barely discussed.

In a filing Friday, the U.S. said it needs Novartis to provide information to support its allegation that the company defrauded federal health-care programs of hundreds of millions of dollars over a decade by inducing doctors to prescribe its medications through sham speaker events.

“The requested documents go to the core issues in this case: whether educational materials were provided at these events; which doctors actually attended the events; how much money was spent on meals and honoraria; and indeed, most fundamentally, whether the underlying documentation shows that a particular event actually took place,” the government said in its court filing.

Last year Novartis agreed to pay $390 million to settle a lawsuit in which the U.S. government claimed the Swiss company paid kickbacks to pharmacies to boost sales of some of its prescription drugs. The company neither admitted nor denied liability.

The case is U.S. v. Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., 11-CV-0071, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Pharma Guy's insight:

Back in 2013, the U.S. Justice Department  filed a civil false claims lawsuit against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. involving alleged kickbacks paid by the company to health care providers (read the details here).

DOJ claims that Novartis violated the Anti-Kickback Statute by paying doctors to speak about certain drugs, including its hypertension drugs Lotrel and Valturna and its diabetes drug Starlix, at events that were often little or nothing more than social occasions for the doctors. 

Many speaker programs were held in circumstances in which it would have been "virtually impossible for any presentation to be made, such as on fishing trips off the Florida coast," the suit claims.

"Other Novartis events were held at Hooters restaurants."


Read "Novartis Wines -- er, Beers -- and Dines Docs at Hooters!"; 

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Patients May Leave Docs Who Prescribe Expensive Drugs & Take $ from #Pharma

Patients May Leave Docs Who Prescribe Expensive Drugs & Take $ from #Pharma | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |
NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Charles Ornstein of ProPublica about its research into payments doctors receive from drug and device companies.

SIEGEL: And what have you heard from doctors about this? What kind of reaction has ProPublica received?

ORNSTEIN: It's really interesting because doctors are very divided about relationships with the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. There's obviously a huge cadre of doctors that believe it's very helpful and that collaboration between the industry and physicians is essential to developing new medications and to learning about new medications. But there's also a growing number of doctors who are concerned that these interactions are having a corrosive effect on medicine.

SIEGEL: Although what about this question - if I look up a doctor or a dentist whom I know or whom I use and I see that that person received a few hundred dollars from a pharmaceutical company, if I imagine that that person actually makes a few hundred-thousand dollars, it doesn't make a lot of sense that the whole practice is turning on a couple of meals?

ORNSTEIN: It's really interesting, the responses that we've heard from patients in this regard. Most patients trust their doctors and this is not going to shake their trust in their doctors. They may look it up out of curiosity, but it's not going to cause them to change doctors. But what we've heard is, there are also a small group of patients that have doubts about what their doctor has recommended, they're - sort of have a nagging doubt in their mind about a particular drug that they've been given, or it costs a whole lot of money and they don't understand why. And those are the patients that are emailing us to say they're going to look for new doctors and they're taking to social media to discuss that as well because they've already had a doubt, and this sort of adds another element of doubt, and they may choose to go to a different physician as a result of it.

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Doctors Got $6.5 Billion From Drug, Device Makers in 2014

Doctors Got $6.5 Billion From Drug, Device Makers in 2014 | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

U.S. doctors and teaching hospitals got $6.49 billion from drug and medical-device makers in 2014, according to new government data on the financial links between the companies and the people who prescribe their products.

The data released Tuesday range from the royalties paid to hospitals to help develop products to fees provided to medical experts to speak at a dinner with colleagues. The payments are listed in two broad categories: money to fund research and payments to entertain doctors or compensate them for consulting or other non-research purposes.

By disclosing information on the payments, the U.S. is seeking to bring transparency to the financial relationships between drugmakers and health care providers. Those ties can influence how physicians practice, even if they aren’t aware of it, said Jason Dana, a professor at Yale School of Management who studies decision-making.

“If we have a financial incentive to believe something or conclude something, we kind of trick ourselves into thinking it’s true,” he said. “And we’re not always aware we’re doing it.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services created a website, called Open Payments, to let people search for data on their medical providers.

The disclosures cover payments to about 607,000 doctors and 1,121 teaching hospitals. Overall, companies made $3.23 billion in payments for research and $2.56 billion for other purposes, according to a summary posted on the website. The data also include ownership interests of $703 million.

Pfizer, Merck

Pfizer Inc., the biggest U.S. drugmaker, reported at least $234 million in research payments and $53.3 million in general outlays. Merck & Co. said it paid at least $97.7 million for research and made at least $27.5 million in general payments. AstraZeneca Plc spent at least $85.7 million on research and $72.5 million on general payments.

Pharma Guy's insight:

I recently used CMS online tool to find out more about the types of payments big pharma companies make to physicians. I only looked at payments for items/services unrelated to research and ownership of stock; i.e., marketing-related items/services. See my analysis here: 

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More Docs Debunk COI Myth in NEJM/BMJ & Laud Financial Ties to #BigPharma

More Docs Debunk COI Myth in NEJM/BMJ & Laud Financial Ties to #BigPharma | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

For years, critics have complained that doctors and the pharmaceutical industry have become too cozy, creating all sorts of unseemly conflicts of interest. That's led to a push for new rules to police these relationships and enforce greater transparency.

Now experts are debating whether these measures have gone too far. There's an interesting back-and-forth between doctors in the New England Journal of Medicineand the British Medical Journal on whether conflicts of interest are actually a huge problem in medicine — and whether efforts to regulate them do more harm than good.

Rosenbaum argues that the stigma against doctor-industry collaboration could have all sorts of negative effects. It might mean that effective drugs get to market more slowly. It might mean that experts with important views get ignored or silenced because they happen to work with drug companies. It might mean that "life-saving therapies whose development requires the combined talents of clinicians and industry scientists don’t materialize."

"I’m not suggesting abandoning regulation," Rosenbaum writes. "When the rules work, they protect us and our patients from fraudulent marketing and twisting of facts. But when rules merely cloak an anti-industry bias in the false promise of scientific virtue, we undermine potentially productive research collaborations, dissemination of expertise, and public trust."

Pharma Guy's insight:

You might be interested in reading this Pharma marketing News article: PharmaPhobia & What to Do About It - 

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Pharma Speaker Dinners Popular with Docs, Symposia Too

Pharma Speaker Dinners Popular with Docs, Symposia Too | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Speaker dinners and symposia are the most popular pharmaceutical events, according to an American Express Meeting & Events survey on the meetings preferences of physicians.


AMEX's 'Doctor’s Orders: The Physician’s Perspective on Meetings and Events' survey questioned 505 physicians worldwide to help pharmaceutical companies better understand the elements of the meetings that attract physicians. On average, respondents were invited to 16 meetings in 2015, but only attended half of those events. Of these, 67% said they attended speaker dinners, 66% said they regularly attended symposia, 53% said congresses, while 52% said product meetings were useful.


Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president & general manager at American Express Meetings & Events, said: "Attracting physicians and designing effective, compelling meeting experiences is critical to the ongoing success of pharmaceutical-sponsored meetings. By better understanding the shifting expectations of physicians, meetings organisers can ensure that their events are a more effective channel for professional networking, product education, awareness and feedback."

Pharma Guy's insight:

As for symposia: Many speaker programs were held in circumstances in which it would have been "virtually impossible for any presentation to be made, such as on fishing trips off the Florida coast," claimed a DOJ suit against Novartis, which famously hosted physician speaker events at Hooters! For more on that, read “Novartis Wines -- er, Beers -- and Dines Docs at Hooters!”;

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Can Pharma Payments to Docs Make Up for Decreased State & Fed Research Funding?

Can Pharma Payments to Docs Make Up for Decreased State & Fed Research Funding? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |
One doctor rethinks his hardline stance against contact with industry. Beyond drugmakers' sales and marketing, perhaps there's room for productive and ethical collaboration to advance medicine.

Frequently harried, I avoid drug company salespeople. Their job is to get face time with me and convince me quickly of the merits of their products.

To sweeten the path in, they bring food for the staff along with free samples of prescription drugs for us to give to our patients.

A typical office visit goes like this: The sales rep catches me in the hallway between patient rooms, or ducks her head in my cubby when I'm furiously typing to keep up on chart notes. She greets me so warmly that human instinct kicks in, and I simply find myself unable to cut her off.

Boom. I'm trapped.

Clearly there have been egregious examples of flawed collaborations with industry...I still have no interest in being hounded by pharmaceutical detailers, and I will still take note of how studies and researchers are funded. But I no longer will automatically dismiss clinical guidelines written by experts who have industry ties. Why, after all, would we want to automatically prevent the people most knowledgeable about a topic from being engaged with the public simply because industry helped pay for it?

As state and federal research budgets have become pinched, industry funding is a reality that we simply have to come to terms with if we are move to medical science forward.

Therefore it makes sense to me to re-examine how we handle these relationships and set up ground rules valuing transparency and the public good. A good starting point would be clarity on whether such industry funding is used for a researcher's lab and overhead costs — supporting the research effort — or simply funneled into their pocket, which I see as simply payment for marketing.

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A Pharma Payment A Day Keeps Docs’ Finances Okay

A Pharma Payment A Day Keeps Docs’ Finances Okay | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |
New data on payments from drug and device companies to doctors show that many doctors received payments on 100 or more days last year. Some received payments on more days than they didn't.

What is being seen for the first time now is how ingrained pharmaceutical companies and their sales reps are in the lives of those who write prescriptions for their products. A ProPublica analysis found that 768 doctors received payments on more than half of the days in 2014. More than 14,600 doctors received payments on at least 100 days in 2014.

The nation's 3,900 rheumatologists in the data averaged 40 days of interactions with drug and device companies, more than doctors in any other large specialty. They were followed closely by endocrinologists, electrophysiologists and interventional cardiologists. On the other end of the spectrum, dentists, chiropractors, neonatologists and pathologists had among the fewest interactions with drug and device makers.

All told, 1,617 companies reported 15.7 million payments valued at $9.9 billion. Nearly all of those payments — 14.9 million — were classified as "general payments," covering promotional speaking, consulting, meals, travel and royalties. They totaled $3.5 billion over the 17-month period.

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Las Vegas Chefs Against Pharma Funding of Continuing Medical Education

Las Vegas Chefs Against Pharma Funding of Continuing Medical Education | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Pharmaceutical companies have too much influence on continuing medical education (CME) courses. So argues the national hospitality workers' union, Unite Here, which this week launched a new campaign against the funding of CME courses by "Big Pharma." That funding, it argues, unfairly influences what prescriptions doctors write their patients, which in turn, it says, has increased health care costs for its members, including hotel, casino, and foodservice workers.

"Medical meetings are important to our hospitality industry in Las Vegas and nationally," said Unite Here member Chad Neanover, prep cook at the Margaritaville on the Las Vegas Strip. "We negotiate with our employers to have affordable health care. Unfortunately, this is constantly under attack as health care costs continue to skyrocket and pharmaceutical companies are influencing the medical industry."

According to Unite Here, which cites data from the new Open Payments database -- a federal program that collects and makes public information about financial relationships between the health care industry, physicians, and teaching hospitals -- doctors accepted $4 billion in gifts, cash, and other compensation between 2009 and 2014. Meanwhile, it said, as recently as 2011 pharmaceutical companies spent $736 million on CME courses.

In response to its concerns, Unite Here will spend the summer seeking petition signatures across the United States, encouraging the Accrediting Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to end CME funding by the pharmaceutical industry.

"ACCME has acknowledged in their own report that 'CME activities funded by commercial interests can be effective in changing physicians' prescribing practices,'" said Levi Pine, medical industry researcher for Unite Here. "The fact that Big Pharma and their drug money have so much influence on our doctors is unethical and problematic."

ACCME Responds

In a response to Unite Here's objections, ACCME said that only 11 percent of CME events receive pharmaceutical funding.

Pharma Guy's insight:

ACCME's response is disingenuous. Even though pharma support for CME has been waning -- according to data through 3013 - About 39% of CME funding comes from the pharmaceutical industry in the form of grants and advertising at CME events. Read "Total CME Revenue is Up, But Pharma Support is Down (Again) in 2013": 

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Can Pro Publica's Dollars for Docs database help patients find a "good" doctor?

Here are my slides for my #MedX keynote on Sept. 6, 2014. These may change before delivery.
Pharma Guy's insight:

Some of the docs in Pro Publica's database may very well be highly-qaulified physicians, which is NOT what this presentation is about. It's more about perhaps finding docs with high ethical standards, which may or may not be of use to patients needing expert opinion.

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