Weekend catchup: Consumer caveats on orthopedic devices; TV drug ads; George Carlin's 7 words; Michigan bans corporate CME

The New York Times had an important story that “highlights what experts say is a troubling situation for patients and doctors: when disputes arise about orthopedic implant safety, there are no independent referees or sources of information because no one tracks the performance of the devices. …Those with the most to lose are the hundreds of thousands of people who receive an orthopedic device each year.”

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog wrote thatThe FDA is proposing new rules on consumer prescription drug ads aimed at making the information about side effects more understandable. (Off the top of our heads, we’d just suggest they slooooooowwww down when discussing all the rare, but often-horrific sounding side effects of a given medication.)… The comment period ends Monday (June 28).

Blogger Brian Reid offered one more important followup about news coverage of the big American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting earlier this month. In so doing, he referenced George Carlin’s 7 words, as I’ve been known to do. Excerpt:

“But during the meeting, the national media — the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the broadcast networks and the Associated Press — wrote on only seven studies, a tiny snippet of what was presented. These seven stories, in turn, were pulled from the small number of studies promoted by the ASCO communications department with press briefings.”

And, if you missed it, the New York Times reported that the University of Michigan did what its Big 10 counterpart Minnesota couldn’t:

“In the latest effort to break up the often cozy relationship between doctors and the medical industry, the University of Michigan Medical School has become the first to decide that it will no longer take any money from drug and device makers to pay for coursework doctors need to renew their medical licenses.”

A committee (on which I served) recommended to the Minnesota med school that it eliminate corporate funding of CME within 5 years, but that recommendation was rejected by the administration. Score one big one for the Wolverines over the gutless Gophers on this one.

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Gregory D. Pawelski

June 28, 2010 at 9:25 am

After reading Brian Reid’s blog, I remembered some interesting information about ASCO back in 2004. Public Interest Watch (PIW) called for a government investigation into ASCO, for the manipulative ways in which it has attempted to scuttle badly-needed healthcare reforms. An Associated Press (AP) account of maneuverings by ASCO in its attempts to preserve its lucrative chemotherapy concession, stated that PIW called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to open a formal investigation of its contract with Ketchum Communications to promote reforms to Medicare.
According to AP, Ketchum was HHS’ principal contractor in its $87 million public campaign to gain acceptance of changes to Medicare. In its report, it also noted that Ketchum simultaneously was under contract with ASCO to scuttle some of the very changes HHS was paying it to promote.
PIW Interim Executive Director Lewis Fein stated, “Ketchum’s conduct in this matter appears to be so blatantly unethical that it defies explanation. It is literally working both sides of the same issue and millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted.” Fein also noted, “We believe the American Society of Clinical Onoclogists is just as at fault as Ketchum. ASCO’s decision to retain Ketchum appears to be nothing more than a premeditated attempt to corrupt to legislative process and to waste millions in public funds in the process.”
ASCO has run into trouble before in the course of its campaign against Medicare reform. In March of that year, the editorial board of the New York Times criticized “angry doctors” for terrorizing their patients” into believing that a reformed Medicare drug reimbursement plan would force them to turn cancer patients out to less convenient and less comfortable hospitals for chemotherapy treatment.