Saturday, August 04, 2007

Lawmaker Calls for Registry of Drug Firms' Payments to Doctors

New York Times
Lawmaker Calls for Registry of Drug Firms Paying Doctors

August 4, 2007
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 — An influential Republican senator says he will propose legislation requiring drug makers to disclose the payments they make to doctors for services like consulting, lectures and attendance at seminars.
The lawmaker, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, cited as an example the case of a prominent child psychiatrist, who he said made $180,000 over just two years from the maker of an antipsychotic drug now widely prescribed for children.
Mr. Grassley is one of several lawmakers to propose a federal registry of such payments. Minnesota, Vermont and Maine already have similar registries, and other states are considering them.
The proposals are a response to growing concerns that payments from drug makers can affect doctors’ prescribing habits, increase the cost of health care and, in some cases, endanger patients’ health.
The drug industry opposes such registries, saying they would discourage doctors from receiving needed education. John Bentivoglio, a lawyer in Washington who represents drug makers, said the registries would be a burden for the companies and might be misinterpreted.
“One of the concerns is that these payments are seen as bribes,” Mr. Bentivoglio said. “That’s not the case. The vast majority are lawful payments for services.”

In a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, Mr. Grassley said he had started an investigation into these practices. Noting that most universities require academic researchers to disclose such payments, he said, “I have sent letters to a handful of universities to understand how well such a reporting system actually works.”

These letters have uncovered several problems, Mr. Grassley said. First, universities do not verify the information filed by their professors, so “the only person who knows if the reported income is accurate and complete is the doctor who is receiving the money.”

Also, the universities generally keep this information secret from patients, who have no way of knowing whether their doctor is on a drug maker’s payroll, he said.

“So if there is a doctor getting thousands of dollars from a drug company — payments that might be affecting his or her objectivity — the only people outside the pharmaceutical industry who will probably ever know about this are the people at that very university,” he said.

Mr. Grassley said that he had asked how much the child psychiatrist, Dr. Melissa DelBello at the University of Cincinnati, made from AstraZeneca, the London-based drug giant that manufactures the antipsychotic Seroquel.

Dr. DelBello’s studies of Seroquel in children have helped to fuel the widespread pediatric use of antipsychotic medicines. Those studies were inconclusive, but she has described them as demonstrating that Seroquel is effective in some children.

Asked in a past newspaper interview how much she was paid by AstraZeneca to help market Seroquel, she had said, “Trust me, I don’t make very much.” Mr. Grassley said this week that her disclosure forms at the University of Cincinnati show she received $100,000 from AstraZeneca in 2003 and $80,000 in 2004. Dr. DelBello consults for seven other drug makers as well. She did not respond to requests for comment this week.

Richard Puff, a university spokesman, said he did not know how much Dr. DelBello made in combined payments from all eight drug makers. Asked if the institution did anything to verify its professors’ financial disclosures, he replied, “We do trust our faculty when they’re making these disclosures.”

Mr. Grassley said he would propose that drug makers make public any payments made to doctors who bill the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, which would include nearly all doctors.

Noting that voters can easily look up the contributions made to elected officials, he asked, “Shouldn’t we hold doctors to similar standards?”

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bill To Drug Pregnant Women! Help Stop It.

YOUR URGENT ACTION IS NEEDED on a bill quickly moving through Congress called "The Mother's Act" (H.R. 20) that calls for pregnant women to be screened for mental disorders and new mothers to be screened for "postpartum depression," resulting in their being prescribed dangerous antidepressants or other psychiatric drugs.
1) Click here: to make your voice heard!
2) Just put in your zip code, click on pre-written paragraphs of your choice and the letter will be directed to your US Congressman! If you are a mother, please let your Representative know this. The software makes it very fast and easy.
3) Please forward to your friends to do the same.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Russian activist says held in psychiatric clinic

From Reuters News Service

By Olesya Dmitracova

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian opposition activist told Reuters on Tuesday from inside a psychiatric hospital that she was being held there against her will because she had blown the whistle on abuse in mental health care.

Larisa Arap of the anti-Kremlin group United Civil Front and her colleagues say she is a victim of a local vendetta by healthcare workers after she gave an account to a newspaper alleging patients at another psychiatric unit in the same region were beaten and raped.

The full details of the case are not known, but Arap's detention has caused an outcry among Kremlin opponents who say it echoes the Soviet practice of confining political dissidents in mental institutions to keep them quiet.

Sounding exhausted but coherent, Arap spoke to Reuters on a mobile telephone from the psychiatric ward near the city of Murmansk, on the edge of the Arctic Circle, where she has been since July 5.

She said her problems began when she went to see a doctor to get a certificate testifying she was in sound mental health -- a standard requirement in Russia for renewing a driver's license.

"She (the doctor) called the police. They kept me by force, then an ambulance was called, they bundled me in there and brought me here where I was beaten," Arap said on the telephone she had borrowed from a visitor.

"I feel unwell but I am trying to hold out. But my strength is dying away," Arap said.

Yelena Vasilyeva, a fellow opposition activist who has visited Arap in hospital, said doctors had forcibly injected Arap with drugs... This article continues here.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Kids on drugs - by prescription

Read today's St. Petersburg Times article about kids on antidepressants.

People are starting to agree that the emperor has not clothes. In the last week, we saw Lindsey Lohan get out of a psychiatric-style drug rehab institution, and within 11 days she was up on charges for driving under the influence of alcohol and cocaine was found on her person.

Psychiatric solutions don't work.