CT Center for Patient Safety Newsletter
Quality Healtcare is a Right June 2009
In This Issue
A deal was cut, then broken. Once again, the consumer loses.
Hospitals have dropped the ball
A Celebrity Patient Sells His Soul to the Pharma Devil

15 

At 8pm on May 26th, an agreement was reached that would have required pharmaceutical companies to disclose all payments over $1000 that they made to the doctors in our state. The public could more readily know if there were potential conflicts of interests.  We have always believed that transparency was critical for the consumer in making healthcare decisions.
It was not everything we wanted but it was an important first step.  But, by Wednesday morning, the deal had fallen apart.  
I think we lost for the following reasons:
         We were outspent - probably $1000 for every one dollar we spent
         The Legislative office building has been filled with pharma lobbyists
         Deli and restaurant owners were organized and told legislators, unless the pharma sales reps could buy lunches and dinners for healthcare workers, the delis and resteraunts would go out of business
         Sales reps, called detailers, showed up in their Brooks Brothers suits - about 300 of them and said that CT would lose even more jobs if our legislation was passed.
 
And probably the real reason:
Longstanding close ties between lobbyists and some legislators were more important than good public policy.

 
We had a lot going for us. 
         A demanding and diverse coalition
         Strong coverage from Public Radio, Hartford Courant and media across the state
         National support from Consumers Union, American Medical Students Association, National Physicians Alliance and Community Catalyst
         New state voices: the  AARP was incredible.
 
It was simply not enough.  I believed that campaign finance reform would have finally begun to have an impact on policy. That is not yet the case.   We will be back next year.  Our voices will not be silenced.


 

 


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Dear Friend of CT Center for Patient Safety:
 
During this year's legislative session, we once again saw the power of money in shaping public policy.  We believe in holding up truth to power.  But it will take not only our voices but our ability to keep those voices heard.  And that requires financial support.  Please send your contribution to PO Box 231335, Hartford CT 06123 or go to www.ctcps.org and contribute on line. 
 
 
Study finds limited reporting of disciplinary actions
By Andis Robeznieks


Hospitals have "dropped the ball" when it comes to physician oversight, according to a new report by the Health Research Group of the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen. Nearly half of all hospitals have not submitted a single doctor's name to a federal database that has been collecting information on hospital disciplinary actions for more than 17 years, the report said.
In 1990, the National Practitioner Data Bank began collecting information on incidents where a doctor's hospital privileges were revoked or restricted for more than 30 days because of issues of competency or conduct, the report said. But, as of December 2007, only 11,221 incidents have been reported, which is one-eighth of what the government estimated would be collected when the database was created under the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986, the report said. According to Public Citizen, 2,845 out of 5,823 U.S. hospitals (49%) have never submitted a privilege sanction report.
To make hospitals "more accountable the public," Public Citizen recommends civil penalties on hospitals that fail to file reports, that CMS be given statutory authority to impose sanctions on hospitals that fail to perform peer review, and that the HHS inspector general investigate hospital peer review practices related to the granting and renewing of hospital admitting privileges.
Public Citizen cites one study that said hospitals have imposed shorter disciplinary periods in order to sidestep the reporting requirements.
 
 
 
A Celebrity Patient Sells His Soul to the Pharma Devil
Monday May 18, 2009
Trish Torrey; Patient Empowerment, About.com 
I've come to expect underhanded promotional tactics from pharmaceutical manufacturers. They are easy to find and call out. But this story... this one really took me by surprise. Until I realized that it's part of this celebrity patient's schtick and he was happy to let Bristol Myers-Squibb pay a fortune for his services, even though he was lying through his teeth. Not sure who took who for a bigger ride. Andy Behrman. His name was not familiar to me, but perhaps it should have been. He calls himself Electroboy. He's made a career out of (presumably) advocating for people with bipolar disease, a disease which he claims he has, too. He charges big bucks to people who want his help. For what? I'm not sure. Because it seems he's for sale for anything anyone wants to pay him for, whether he speaks the truth or not. Specifically this story is about Behrman's arrangement with Bristol Myers Squibb which manufactures a drug called Abilify for people with bipolar disease, also called manic depression. According to the Wall Street Journal, BMS paid him $400,000 to talk about how wonderful the drug is. The problem is, Behrman was having problems with side effects and stopped taking the drug four days after he started taking it. Yet he continued to speak for two years on behalf of Abilify, and BMS continued to pay him handsomely. Behrman only stopped promoting the drug because BMS refused to pay his price, which BMS reports to be $7.5 million. The only question is: which one of them -- Andy Behrman or BMS -- is more unethical? At least Behrman's book comes clean when he talks about his arrests for fraud, hustling, male prostitution and more in the 1990s. BMS continues to pay patients and psychiatrists to talk about a drug which has been shown to have some severe side effects. It doesn't seem to matter whether those speakers are sincere. Seems like neither zebra has changed its stripes. What can we patients learn from this? We can learn to be careful about who we trust. We can learn to ask questions about sincerity vs useful information. It doesn't matter whether it's Andy Behrman, Sally Field, Jenny McCarthy, or even Robert Jarvik who we used to think invented the first artificial heart. (He didn't. His mentor did. He improved it and named it after himself.) Don't rely on a celebrity to give you advice about medical care or drugs. They've been paid to make commercials or speak. They are not trustworthy medical professionals. We need to remember to follow the money. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jean Rexford
203 247 5757