Conflicted About Conflicts

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  • 02/28/2007
Drugwonks and CMPI has always been open (why should hide it) about the fact we receive support from pharmaceutical and biotech firms. The last time we looked, there are few industries that actually spend time and money making things that actually heal people and save lives and I have said and wrote in countless settings when called a tool of Big Pharma or some other tired compliment, it is a personal passion of mine to speak up for the scientists and researchers who dedicate their time and effort to discovering and developing and commercializing new medicines. The last time I looked, the critics of industry -- and some criticisms are valid -- haven't developed a new drug, nor have the models they propose -- killing off drug companies in favor of drug discovery/development combines that they would run or would have their own hand-picked people run that in turn would have the standards for approving, prescribing and paying for medicines set by a similar bunch of "untainted" experts would be a disaster, the equivalent of the outpatient unit at Walter Reed.

But that debate is for another day. The point here is the aura of objectivity the critics tend bask in because they are given a free pass by the media. Has the media ever explored the financial and ideological conflicts of the critics? For instance, David Blumenthal, a integral part of the IOM Drug Safety committee has been both a recipient of Commonwealth grants and a reviewer to decide who gets what for the liberal health foundation. Blumenthal is also head of an organization called The Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) which according to it's website "aims to set forth a vision for professionalism in the 21st century and to promote that vision through research and policy initiatives. "

IMAP received a $7.5 million grant from George Soros who made his money in part from wrecking currencies. IMAP is part of a new venture called The Prescription Project, which is funded by Community Catylst, which in turn is funded by the same group that funds the liberal Families USA which also receives money from Soros. The Prescription Project is being funded by the Pew Charitable Trust to the tune of $6 million but is also linked to the Prescription Access Litigation Project through its affiliation with Community Catalyst. That project is comprised of the largest tort lawyers suing drug companies for a variety of reasons.

The Prescription Project is designed to end companies from having any contact with doctors or patients whatsoever. As the project notes: "Public and private payers spend billions of dollars a year on prescription drugs. When these payers rely on information from industry marketing campaigns rather than unbiased scientific studies, the result is higher cost and poorer quality."

I guess the unbiased scientific studies they have in mind are ALLHAT, CATIE, and the NICE study recommending that the UK's health system not pay for Alzheimer's drugs and new cancer drugs...but that is for another day too

Now guess who is on the board of The Prescription Project: I have done the work for you.

* Jerry Avorn, M.D. Chief of the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women's Hospital
* Patrick J. Brennen, MD, Chief of Clincial Effectiveness and Quality Improvement of the University of Pennsylvania Health System
* David L. Coleman, MD, Chairman, Department of Medicine of Boston University
* Cathy DeAngelis, MD, Editor-in-Chief of JAMA
* Sharon Levine, MD, Associate Executive Director of Kaiser Permanente
* John E. McDonough, Ph.D. Executive Director, Health Care For All, Massachusetts
* Steven Nissen, MD, President of the American College of Cardiology
* Philip A. Pizzo, MD, Dean of the Stanford School of Medicine

PS. Health Care For All is affiliated with Community Catalyst and Families USA

Levine is probably best known for appearing, with her co-star, Jerry Avorn, in the ABC Special hosted by the late Peter Jennings (HMO companies, executive producers) to argue that the rise in the use of new medicine was completely the result of drug ads and added nothing to health.

And Nissen still believes that it is ok to hype the cardiovascular risks associated with drugs for ADHD are dangerous because there is no way so many kids are really ADHD

The fact is, these groups want to advance an agenda. They are receiving funding from liberal foundations to support this agenda. With respect to Blumenthal, it is sad that he was allowed to be on the IOM committee but Nobel Prize winners with real experience in drug development were not by the committee's chair because of conflicts. It is apparent that only one type of relationship is considered wrong: an association with a pharmaceutical firm. I

guess you can take money from currency wreckers who want to de-Nazify America (Soros) and that's ok or liberal foundations and not be conflicted. If history tells us anything the people who are driven by ideology are more willing to twist the truth (e.g. Marcia Angell still claiming that all drugs in a class are equally effective) to advance a political agenda. That is what the Prescription Project and the rest really are. How do we know that Blumenthal's judgment as an IOM member wasn't influenced by his ideology? What about the fact that both of his projects could benefit from the IOM recommendations including the recommendation for lots of evidence based medicine type studies?

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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