Underreported: The Influence of Medical Device Makers

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Charlie Ornstein and Tracy Weber, ProPublica senior reporters, discuss medical societies and their financial ties to drug and medical device makers. Ornstein and Weber are the authors of the article "Financial Ties Bind Medical Societies to Drug and Device Makers," part of ProPublica's series Dollars for Doctors.


Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber

Comments [8]

thatgirl from manhattan

ah, brian--that "killing your mother/grandmother/death panels" argument should stop everyone cold--but it's used far too often for many to buy it any more.

i didn't say that "money received from a drug company is automatically evil". you did. and i worked with and for pharma and med devices companies for years, so i know all about payments to both institutions and professionals.

what i'm saying on propublica's behalf is that they are a not-for-profit news source who don't take any corporate dollars for advertising purposes. i.e., they don't have to worry that what they write will cause ire in some "valued client"/pharmaco who spends millions promoting with them. they produce journalism for the public good, and have been generously awarded for it, across a great swath of public health issues.

as to whether pharmaco funds taken by an institution or individual practitioner constitute a conflict of interest, it depends. billions of pharmaco dollars are "supporting" research at med schools across the country, which, again, is subjective; it would depend on whether the funds are provided without conditions against researching competitive devices or molecules, and other considerations. yes, research makes drugs possible, but when pharmacos prescribe study design, not so much.

the propublica piece and discussion herein shed light on the influence pharmaco dollars have on both medical societies and individual practitioners. what they're seeking is transparency. if there's no conflict in taking funds from these companies, then full disclosure to both practitioners and patients must be made that they are in receipt of dollars, which, like lobbying of electeds, does influence both prescribing habits and societal endorsements.

If in receipt of said funds, would it make sense that either the society or practitioner didn't endorse these products? again, it's about transparency. both the practitioner and patient, as consumers, deserve to make decisions based upon that. if this wasn't rife, then professional organizations like "no free lunch" would not exist:

i didn't say or imply that pharma was or is the most "highly regulated industry". i said that pharma marketing and promotions were subject to regulations, and that those regulations have both relaxed or simply have failed to be enforced in recent years, particularly if the bedside of a professional in a hotel can bear promotion from a pharma or med device company exhibiting at a nearby medical meeting. this was not always the case, and it is a cause for concern.

May. 12 2011 03:07 PM
Brian from NJ

You are correct that we in the pharma industry are rightly the most highly regulated industry. Every single data point, trial result, disease state, patient education, advertisement, etc has been vetted and approved by the FDA.
I do not argue that the industry needed to be cleaned up over the last decade and literally looks nothing like what it used to, and that is positive.
However the assumption that money received from a drug company is automatically evil is false. Another ProPublica article starts by stating as fact that medical faculty at teaching institutions who receive payments as consultants, researchers, or speakers from pharma are "corrupted". Not perception, not possibility, but stated as fact that pharma money is corrupting. The entire article lost credibility when the author stated this. ProPublica has taken a very one sided stance in this issue. If everyone wants to put drug companies out of business that is fine. Just remember that when your mother gets a rare and lethal cancer.

May. 12 2011 02:23 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

bill--you might produce these shows, but clearly you know nothing about ethical/pharmaceutical marketing and promotion. they have long been subject to far more strict rules--both semantically and locationally--than any consumer or other non-regulated product. that you've only commented on sponsorship and tradeshows means you haven't bothered to understand the entirety of propublica's reportage on this subject.

for years there were strict rules about where a medical professional could receive promotions--it used to stop in the tradeshow hall; then it moved to the outside of their hotel room door; now it can appear bedside, without the ability to opt in or out of the promotion. propublica is right to alert the public about how this slippery slope translates to undue promotion to and employment of medical professionals in promoting their products.

as this report is specific to medical devices, which enjoy more vague rules than molecules (prescription drugs), it's time to help people understand the "food chain" that brings their doctor to prescribe a device or drug to them, very often excessive or unnecessary.

the battle over "healthcare reform" points generously to how doctors feel they are under-reimbursed by medicare and private insurance companies. providing consultatory or "expert" status to doctors supplements their income by making them paid promoters of products--again, both drugs and devices--which lead to overprescribing based on incentive pay.

praise to propublica for shedding light on this practice more than NYT or others would dare--not needing the influence of marketing dollars from the pharma industry certainly provides the means to telling the whole story.

people shouldn't refrain from finding out if their prescribing doctors are paid pharma consultants, and seeking second opinions from someone who's not!

May. 12 2011 01:52 PM
KS from Brooklyn

What a nasty and gratuitous dismissal of PMDD as a real and debilitating disorder. What does it even have to do with the guests' research into marketing tactics by medical device makers? I'd love to give that guest a taste of what it's like to suffer from it.

May. 12 2011 01:48 PM
Brian from NJ

Disclosure: i am a pharma rep.
I don't know of anyone who really WANTS to pay for and take pills every day. The idea that patients insist on taking a medication that they don't need is asinine.
Once again, WNYC and ProPublica insult many listeners with your remarks about so-called lifestyle drugs. Leonard- I am offended and surprised by your ED joke. Why dont you join me for a day of calling on urologists and hear about the number of men and their partners who say that while their blood pressure drug may save their life, it is their ED that has the greatest impac on them and their marriage.Your comments are consistently ignorant and offensive.

May. 12 2011 01:45 PM
Amy from Manhattan

How effective do the guests think the required disclosures at these events are?

May. 12 2011 01:40 PM
Bill from UWS

I produce business trade shows. You're making all this marketing sound insidious but these are all common practices at modern professional events. Everything is available for sponsorship.

Complaining about this is like complaining about excessing advertising in Times Square.

May. 12 2011 01:35 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The RFID tracking is frightening! Do the dr's. (& other healthcare personnel, both he's & she's) have any way to opt out? Is there small print in the conference registration that includes "consent" to this invasive tracking?

May. 12 2011 01:34 PM

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