CT Center for Patient Safety Newsletter
Why so concerned about the pharmaceutical industry?April 13, 2010

CT Senate Bill 270 is moving ahead. The Physicians Sunshine Act was incorporated in the federal healthcare reform bill.  This section requires pharmaceutical companies to provide to the public how much money has been provided to a doctor or a licensed prescriber.  This is a step in the right direction.  We as consumers have every right to know if our doctor might have a conflict of interest.  But it does not address the whole problem:  pharmaceutical sales reps are supposed to follow a code of ethics.  Now some of them have begun to complain that while they follow the code, not everyone does.  Our legislation would turn that voluntary code into law.  We would even the playing field for them.  So stay tuned.  Yesterday, at the Legislative Office Building, there were vast numbers of pharma lobbyists.  It must mean that our legislation has legs. 

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Dear Members of CTCPS,
A Vermont psychiatrist was paid nearly $117,000 in 2009 in gifts and payments from drug companies.  I am sure, in his own mind, these gifts were justified. But, looking at it from my desk as a consumer advocate, it would appear that he is a drug company junkie and his patients need to know that just perhaps his decisions are influenced by pharmacetucial largesse.
Of all the industries that make up our health care "system", pharma has had profound influence at all levels; the FDA, hospitals, academic medical centers, disease groups and coalitions, doctors offices. Add to that their direct to consumer marketing and we are dealing with patients who are demanding a medication when he or she might be better off not taking any drug at all.
Howard Brody,in his insightful book Hooked, states "Medicine has for many decades been betraying the public trust in the way that it has accepted various benefits from the pharmaceutical industry."
The CT Center for Patient Safety wants the consumer to wake up to conflicts of interest that may well be detrimental to his or her own health.
Recently a doctor complained that he met with a patient who was swallowing twenty prescriptions each day.  The physician was mad at the patient - but not at the many doctors who wrote those scripts without getting a full picture of what that patient was taking and why.
While we need to take responsibility for our own health care, not all of us are able to do that.  I will continue to provide you with links to responsible web sites where you can get accurante information and I will continue to bring you the latest reports of pharmaceutical shenanigans.
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Study Sees a Slant in Articles on Avandia
A Tuesday, April 13 2010 article in the New York Times provides a new and important analysis of reviews and articles about the controversial drug Avandia.  The study found that experts who were paid by its manufacturer have been significantly more likely than others to draw positive conclusions about the drug's safety and efficacy.  To explore possible links between authors' financial interests and opinions, researchers reviewed 202 articles by 180 authors who wrote about Avandia and the risk of heart attack.  Of those who offered favorable views, 87 percent had potential conflicts of interest.
  • Lack of communication - its a big deal
  • A national survey of Americans age 50 or older, conducted by Lake Research Partners in March for the Campaign for Better Care, finds that three in four respondents (74 percent) say  they have wished that their doctors talked and shared information with each other. Millions have experienced problems related to a lack of communication and coordination.
  • 40 percent of people who take five or more medications, 47 percent of heavy users of the healthcare system, and one in three people age 50 or older say their doctors do not talk to them about potential interactions with other drugs or over-the-counter medications when prescribing new medications.
  • 36 percent of heavy users of the healthcare system, and 20 percent of people age 50 or older, say they have received conflicting information from different doctors.
  • One in eight (13 percent) respondents - and 20 percent of Latino respondents - has had to redo a test or procedure because the doctor or hospital did not have the earlier results.
  • 35 percent of respondents with multiple chronic conditions, and 30 percent of respondents overall, has had to bring an X-ray, MRI or other test result to a doctor's appointment.
  • 45 percent of heavy users of the healthcare system, 40 percent of those with multiple chronic conditions, and 29 percent of respondents overall have had to act as a communicator between doctors who weren't talking to each other.
  • Three-quarters of heavy users of the health care system (76 percent) have left a doctor or hospital confused about what to do at home.