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CT Center for Patient Safety Newsletter

June 2014
In This Issue
Big Pharma - Big Money
Featured Article
Article Headline
Big Pharma - Big Money: The cost of doing business 

In their press releases they tend to say they have the highest ethical standards.


In the last five years, here is  an incomplete list of some fines of the corporations whose drugs you might be taking daily.

Eli Lilly  $1.42 billion 
Merck $950 million
GlaxoSmithKline $3 billion
Johnson & Johnson $2.4 billion
Pfizer $2.3 billion
Amgen $762 million

They are marketing to providers to use the drugs in ways that have never been approved and the doctors are prescribing.

They settle with the government - and criminal charges disappear.

Meanwhile, people are harmed and seriously so.  For instance, Eli Lilly resolved a government investigation into the off-label promotion of the anti-psychotic drug  Zyprexa.  The drug had been approved for certain psychotic disorders but Eli Lilly admitted to promoting the drug in elderly populations.  Lilly targeted primary care docs to promote the drug in unapproved uses and "trained its sales force to disregard the law."

Please do your own research - particularly if your provider tells you that they are prescribing a new drug.  Stick with the old ones that are time tested and please go to web sites such as Best Buy Drugs.  

Money seems to be trumping their "highest ethical standards."

And by the way, even with these fines, they are all making profits. Pfizer, when fined $2.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009, still made a profit in that quarter.

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Dear Members,

Is it possible that the National Practitioner Data Bank could provide even less information on individual practitioners' histories?  The logic behind the original law establishing this data bank was to create a world of transparency providing patients with an opportunity to see if their physicians or hospitals had issues of quality.  In fact, today, the National Practitioner Data Bank is not open to patients to see their physicians' records.  Neither is there information on the quality of hospitals.

Because of American Medical Association lobbying efforts, the law was changed to keep the public out but to make the data available to state licensing boards, hospitals and other health care institutions.

Now there is a new problem. There is a corporate shield loophole that is increasing in size as hospital systems acquire individual physician practices. Hospitals themselves are replacing the individual practitioner as the defendant - thereby eliminating the doctor or the nurse's name from the litigation and from being placed in the data bank.  

You might want to go on line to Public Citizen and sign their petition asking Health and Human Services to close the loophole.  Every name added strengthens our voice.  




Eleven clicks away


Doris Peter, Director of Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center was recently one of our panelists on Empowering Connecticut's Newly Insured - Identifying the Gaps in Accessing Health Care - when we talked about the barriers and obstacles for those who are newly insured through our exchange. 

It turns out that when signing up for an insurance plan, it took eleven clicks to find out what prescription and over the counter drugs were on each insurer's formulary.  How many of us who have had insurance for years know what a formulary is and how it will impact the money we spend? Doris knows her way around the Internet and it was challenging for her, so some rainy day why don't you try to see how long it takes you.

We all need plain language and we need to know costs.  Let's make it simple. When we sign up for a plan, we want to know the pharmacy networks, if we need prior authorization for specialty drugs, step therapy restrictions, excluded drugs and supplies, cost sharing, co-pays and drug deductibles.  

When their profits are so high, is that is too much to ask?  
An unusual resource for Connecticut residents

C-Hit.org - Connecticut's online investigative journalism team continues to expand coverage and continues to get awards for its excellence in reporting.  Not many states have what we have and we need to go online, read and comment. Their reporters are bringing to our attention some of the very real, ongoing problems facing our institutions and individuals who provide service and care to our families.

Their articles include Nursing Homes Cited after Two Residents Died, Another Sexually Assaulted, three more doctors fined for standard of care issues, stories on mental health coverage of Connecticut's veterans  and so much more.

Congratulations to the reporters who offer cutting edge analysis of such relevant and important issues.
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