NIH Caves In To the Medical Moral Mob

  • by: |
  • 01/19/2007
Now that the Democrats control the purse strings, left wing organizations will try to force their ideology on to science-based federal agencies. It will happen with the FDA and it has just happened with NIH where the crazies have decided that because researchers consult for industry they are a notch below or above being criminals. It's not enough that talented NIH scientists are leaving the agency in droves. Now anyone who lectures on subjects they know about can't participate in guideline development. That leaves people who, of course, are loyal to the left wing agenda of groups like the Center for the Science in the Public Interest.

As if THAT group is so pure and perfect. Center for the Science for in the Public Interest makes over 70 percent of its income from subscriptions to its monthly Nutrition Action Healthletter. The letter has passed out inaccurate information over the decades and the parent organization has claimed transfats were good and that salt was directly linked to 150,000 deaths a year. So an organization that makes money peddling health scares and false medical claims believes it is the moral authority when it comes to how the NIH should determine who should be on consensus guideline panels.

Well, not exactly. It reached out to Marcia Angell -- who believes that there is no evidence that people respond differently to the same drugs -- and Jerome Kassirer who perfected the marketing practice of selling drug ads in the same edition of the NEJM that favorable studies of the same drug would run and selling reprints to drug reps...The same Angell and Kassirer who , when they were running NEJM, never asked physicians who made money serving as experts in personal injury trials to disclose their conflicts.

Or to quote Oliver Goldsmith: "You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips."

All this puts a chill on freedom of expression and impugns the reputation of decent and dedicated researchers.

NIH Cancels Meeting on Herpes --- Treatment Review Panel Faces Criticism Over Ties To Pharmaceutical Firms - 19 January 2007 The Wall Street Journal - By David Armstrong

The National Institutes of Health abruptly canceled a meeting scheduled for next month to draft guidelines for treating pregnant women and babies with herpes, after concerns were raised about conflicts of interest among a panel of experts tapped to review the issue.

The action came after a group of physicians, medical researchers and consumer and health groups urged the NIH in a letter yesterday to bar experts who are paid by drug makers from helping to draft government guidelines for how doctors treat diseases. Their action was touched off by the NIH's recent naming of five experts to present evidence at a conference next month aimed at drafting guidelines for treating pregnant women with herpes and babies born with the condition.

The five experts, including one who is responsible for coordinating the writing of the guidelines, are doctors employed at academic medical centers. Four of the five experts, including the writing coordinator, have financial ties to makers of herpes drugs, resulting in a panel that "is completely unbalanced," the letter says. The five were the only experts listed as presenters on an NIH draft agenda for the meeting.

In an email, an NIH spokeswoman said the agency "has canceled the meeting out of concern that misperceptions about this meeting could not be resolved prior to the scheduled meeting date." She said no decision has been made on whether the meeting, originally slated for Feb. 20, will be rescheduled.

The action comes amid concern that clinical guidelines that form the basis for how physicians and hospitals treat patients are being unduly influenced by the drug industry. In several recent cases, including one involving kidney treatment with the drug erythropoetin, guidelines composed by experts paid by drug companies have promoted treatment regimens that some other experts contended brought harm to patients while promoting wider use of a drug.

The letter was signed by 44 individuals and 16 organizations. Among the individuals were Richard Horton, editor of the British medical journal Lancet; Marcia Angell and Jerome Kassirer, both former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine; and doctors from medical schools including Harvard and Johns Hopkins. The organizations included the Center for Science and the Public Interest, the National Women's Health Network and the publisher of Consumer Reports.

The group wrote that the NIH agency "must be an honest broker in the development of medical evidence that will inform clinical practice" and that the NIH must ensure that all members of guideline-writing committees are "free from conflicts of interest."

As reported, several doctors who are paid consultants or speakers for GlaxoSmithKline PLC, maker of the best-selling herpes drug Valtrex, have traveled the country to promote testing and treatment of pregnant women with herpes as a way of preventing babies from picking up the infection. Newborn herpes, though rare, can be fatal. That treatment strategy, however, is controversial. Critics say that there isn't any evidence that treating pregnant women with herpes drugs will reduce cases of newborns born with the infection and that exposing as many as a million women a year to herpes medication could result in dangerous side effects for mother and baby.

The letter writers said the scheduled meeting on herpes added to a "sad record" at the NIH of drafting treatment guidelines using panels composed largely of experts receiving money from drug companies. They said that 2004 guidelines for treating cholesterol were drafted by a committee of nine physicians, eight of whom had financial relationships with makers of statins, which are widely given for high cholesterol.

According to a draft agenda of the Feb. 20 meeting, University of Washington obstetrician Zane Brown was to have presented information on testing pregnant women for herpes. Dr. Brown is a frequent speaker for Glaxo on herpes issues. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal for a prior story on the subject, Dr. Brown estimated he gives two to three lectures a week advocating universal testing of pregnant women, earning $1,000 to $2,500 a talk. The doctor who was slated to lead the session on writing the guidelines, Richard Whitley, is a pediatrician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham medical school who is a member of the Glaxo speakers bureau.

Also on the panel was Anna Wald, a University of Washington epidemiologist, who said yesterday she has been a consultant to Novartis AG, which makes a herpes drug, and has done research funded by Glaxo. Dr. Brown didn't respond to an email, and attempts to reach Dr. Whitley through a representative were unsuccessful.

The fourth member identified in the letter as having a conflict was Massachusetts General Hospital obstetrician Laura Riley, who is the secretary and treasurer of the American Herpes Foundation, a nonprofit largely funded by herpes drug makers. Dr. Riley says she has received a few $1,000 stipends for attending meetings of the herpes foundation, but doesn't receive a salary or other pay for her work at the organization.

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.

Blog Roll

Alliance for Patient Access Alternative Health Practice
Better Health
Biotech Blog
CA Medicine man
Cafe Pharma
Campaign for Modern Medicines
Carlat Psychiatry Blog
Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry: A Closer Look
Conservative's Forum
Club For Growth
Diabetes Mine
Disruptive Women
Doctors For Patient Care
Dr. Gov
Drug Channels
DTC Perspectives
Envisioning 2.0
FDA Law Blog
Fierce Pharma
Fresh Air Fund
Furious Seasons
Gel Health News
Hands Off My Health
Health Business Blog
Health Care BS
Health Care for All
Healthy Skepticism
Hooked: Ethics, Medicine, and Pharma
Hugh Hewitt
In the Pipeline
In Vivo
Internet Drug News
Jaz'd Healthcare
Jaz'd Pharmaceutical Industry
Jim Edwards' NRx
Kaus Files
Laffer Health Care Report
Little Green Footballs
Med Buzz
Media Research Center
More than Medicine
National Review
Neuroethics & Law
Nurses For Reform
Nurses For Reform Blog
Opinion Journal
Orange Book
Peter Rost
Pharm Aid
Pharma Blog Review
Pharma Blogsphere
Pharma Marketing Blog
Pharmacology Corner
Pharmaceutical Business Review
Piper Report
Prescription for a Cure
Public Plan Facts
Real Clear Politics
Shark Report
Shearlings Got Plowed
Taking Back America
Terra Sigillata
The Cycle
The Catalyst
The Lonely Conservative
Town Hall
Washington Monthly
World of DTC Marketing
WSJ Health Blog