Docs, Pharma Under Increased Scrutiny

Wall Street Journal, New York Times , Wednesday, December 31, 2008 11 AM
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Dr. Joseph Biederman, who has been a prominent backer of childhood use of Johnson & Johnson's antipsychotic drug Risperdal, will discontinue his participation in several industry-funded clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital pending the results of the hospital's inquiry into his potential conflicts of interest and disclosure obligations, Jennifer Levitz reports. A hospital spokeswoman says the studies will continue under another doctor.

Massachusetts General has said it was concerned that an institute that Biederman and J&J worked together to create at the hospital was used to promote Risperdal's use in children, rather than for scientific or educational purposes. In a letter published this month in the Journal, Biederman maintained that J&J's interests didn't interfere with the institute's work.

The Times' Natasha Singer reminds us that come the New Year, doctors will have to pay for their own Pilots and Sharpies, and drink coffee out of mugs that don't promote the likes of Viagra. All those gimcracks and gewgaws that doctors have been getting from the pharmaceutical industry are verboten under voluntary guidelines drawn up by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

While the industry maintains that the giveaways never influenced a doctor to do anything, critics maintain that drug marketers still wield too much influence. "The guidelines, for example, still permit drug makers to underwrite free lunches for doctors and their staffs or to sponsor dinners for doctors at restaurants, as long as the meals are accompanied by educational presentations," Singer writes in a front-page piece.
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