White papers can be useful tools for journalists. Ideally, they provide authoritative, in-depth information from government or nonprofits about specific policy, diseases, programs, or issues. However, they can also be powerful marketing tools, used by corporations to position a specific product or service as the “solution” to whatever the “problem” is.
Then there is the white paper released by a nonprofit, but developed with corporate financial support. Continue reading
AHCJ member Rita Rubin explores the tricky territory of working as a doctor and a journalist in a “Medical News & Perspectives” piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
She highlights several examples of physician-journalists who have walked the ethical tight rope, including Nancy Snyderman, Sanjay Gupta, Mehmet Oz, Jennifer Ashton and David Samadi. She also quotes Tom Linden, who left his medical practice to work in television news and points out how important it is to keep the two roles separate, a point he has made in the past. Continue reading
Previously, Covering Health has addressed two kinds of potential conflicts of interest that health journalists should watch out for: those of journal article authors and those related to sponsors of journalist trips or other training opportunities.
For freelancers, there’s yet another COI maze to navigate: ensuring that work for one client doesn’t create a conflict for another, present or future.
This sounds simple enough: Don’t cover the same research for two competitors, for example. But in today’s freelance ecosystem, avoiding these conflicts has become more complex, especially with the various types of clients freelancers might have. Continue reading
This article originally appeared on ProPublica’s website.
The government’s new website on drug and device company ties to doctors will be incomplete and may be misleading – for now.
The government’s release today of a trove of data detailing drug and device companies’ payments to doctors has been widely hailed as a milestone for transparency. But it is also something else: a very limited window into the billions in industry spending. Before you dive in and search for a specific doctor, here are five caveats to keep in mind: Continue reading
Photo: Pia ChristensenA Health Journalism 2014 panel about hospital rankings included (left to right) Evan Marks of Healthgrades, Marshall Allen of ProPublica and John Santa, M.D., of Consumer Reports.
If you were at Health Journalism 2014, you might have heard that things got interesting on Saturday when journalists questioned panelists who represented hospital ranking services about their business practices.
Tony Leys, a reporter for the Des Moines Register, was in the audience for “Hospital grading: Reporting on quality report cards” and asked Evan Marks, the executive vice president of informatics and strategy for Healthgrades, how much hospitals pay his organization to be allowed to advertise their ratings. Marks refused to answer the question.
After the panel, Leys pursued the question and got some details that all reporters should be aware of when they consider writing about hospital rankings, including some concrete data on how much hospitals are paying in “licensing fees” to ratings services. You might use his technique to find out how much some of your local hospitals are paying.
Read this tip sheet to find out more.
When writing about medical studies, reporters should always ask researchers about any financial relationships with drug companies or device manufacturers. That was one of the main lessons from a panel on conflicts of interest on Saturday at Health Journalism 2014.
Starting in September, sunshine provisions in the Affordable Care Act will require drug companies to disclose most payments to doctors. Some companies have already started to publicize their financial relationships with doctors. But most medical journal articles do not give accurate information on researchers’ potential conflicts of interest, said panelist Susan Chimonas of the Institute of Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University.
“You shouldn’t be uncomfortable asking these questions,” Chimonas said. “They owe you this information. They owe everyone this information.” Continue reading
Reporters curious about the financial relationship between physicians and pharmaceutical companies can use publicly available data as a starting point – although that comes with some caveats, journalists and industry leaders say.
During the workshop “Covering prescription drug data,” Charles Ornstein, ProPublica senior reporter, pointed out resources that ProPublica has created that reporters can use to write stories about doctors in their communities. Continue reading
Six years ago, a clinic in Oregon made the decision to ban representatives from the pharmaceutical companies. The doctors and staff say goodbye to free samples of expensive drugs, lavish lunches, pens, notebooks, mugs, toys for children and other “benefits.”
Markian Hawryluk, a health reporter with The Bend (Ore.) Bulletin, picked up on a recent journal article about the transformation and used that as his inspiration to write about how the clinic made its decision and how it changed the way doctors there practice medicine, as well as how the move impacted the community.
As data is collected under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, a part of the Affordable Care Act that will require pharmaceutical companies to disclose the money and gifts given to physicians, reporters may start noting similar changes in their area.
Read more about how Hawryluk reported the story and what he learned about the influence drug reps and samples have on prescribing.
Efforts to correct biased and dangerous medical studies are making more headlines.
Shortly after I posted about a new idea to correct missing and misreported research, I got an email from AHCJ member John Fauber, an investigative reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
His latest story for the Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today involves an extensive undertaking coordinated by Yale University to correct the record on a product made by Medtronic called Infuse. The project is called YODA, for Yale Open Data Access. (Read more..)
Infuse — officially a device — consists of a metal cage fitted around a sponge that is soaked in a genetically engineered protein. The protein is supposed to promote bone growth and healing. It works, but perhaps too well. Side effects linked to its use include bone overgrowth that can trap and irritate nerve roots causing chronic pain. It has also been tied to a complication called retrograde ejaculation, which leads to sterility in men. Patients who receive infuse also experienced more problems with wound healing and more cancer.
All in all, pretty devastating outcomes for patients who were hoping to feel better after their back surgeries. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I reached out to a disease charity for comment on a story I was working on. Disease charities are nonprofits like the American Heart Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, etc., that raise money to support the research, care and awareness of people who live with a given condition.
The story was about a rare but very dangerous side effect that was tied to new drug. The side effect is considered so serious that other drugs that cause it have been yanked off the market because of the risk.
I expected the scientific officer I spoke with to react to this news, which was published in a top-tier medical journal, with alarm and concern for patients who were taking the medication, which is poised to become a blockbuster. Instead, though, he was largely dismissive of the reports. He extolled the potential benefits of the newly approved medication for patients.
As reporters, we all have those moments when our spider senses tingle. You may not be able to put your finger on exactly why, but something just doesn’t feel right. Continue reading