Tag Archives: pharmaceutical industry

D.C. journalists gather, meet with pharmaceutical representatives

Phil Galewitz

About Phil Galewitz

Phil Galewitz, a senior correspondent at Kaiser Health News, helps lead AHCJ's Washington, D.C., chapter. At KHN, he covers Medicaid, Medicare, long-term care, hospitals and state health issues. He is a former member of AHCJ's board of directors.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsWashington, D.C., health journalists got together to catch up and make contact with communications official from several pharmaceutical companies on March 18.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsWashington, D.C., health journalists got together to catch up and make contact with communications official from several pharmaceutical companies on March 18.

About 25 journalists gathered on March 18 at Bistro d’Oc in Washington, D.C.,  for an AHCJ chapter happy hours event with top communications officials with PhRMA and several of its member pharmaceutical companies.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsJulie Appleby (left), of Kaiser Health News, and  Laurie McGinley, of The Washington Post, with a representative of Bristol-Myers Squibb at the Washington, D.C., AHCJ chapter event on March 18.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsJulie Appleby (left), of Kaiser Health News, and Laurie McGinley, of The Washington Post, with a representative of Bristol-Myers Squibb at the Washington, D.C., AHCJ chapter event on March 18.

There was no formal program, just a chance to meet PhrMA officials and representatives of companies that included Novo Nordisk, GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Journalists from The Washington Post, Kaiser Health News, Politico, U.S. News & World Reports and Inside Health Policy were among those in attendance. AHCJ helped cover costs for journalists, who were asked for a voluntary $10 to defray expenses.

The event marked the third D.C. chapter event since December. For more info on  D.C. chapter events, contact Phil Galewitz at pgalewitz@kff.org.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsJulie Appleby and Mary Agnes Carey, both of Kaiser Health News, and Laurie McGinley, of The Washington Post, (left to right) were among the journalists who attended the March 18 AHCJ chapter event.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsJulie Appleby and Mary Agnes Carey, both of Kaiser Health News, and Laurie McGinley, of The Washington Post, (left to right) were among the journalists who attended the March 18 AHCJ chapter event.

Experts share realities behind generic, specialty drug pricing

Loren Bonner

About Loren Bonner

Loren Bonner (@lorenbonner) is a reporter for Pharmacy Today. She has freelanced as a health care writer and multimedia producer, and worked in public radio in New York and Connecticut. Bonner obtained her master’s degree in journalism with a health and medicine concentration from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

Photo: Abby via Flickr

Photo: Abby via Flickr

Health journalists received a few lessons in economics during a discussion last week on some alarming drug trends – largely the result of a broken market – that are threatening patient care and undermining the U.S. health care system.

At a New York City chapter eventPhil Zweig, a longtime financial journalist who also runs a group called Physicians Against Drug Shortages, spoke about the scarcity of generic drugs in hospitals and clinics – a problem that has persisted for years. Hospital group purchasing organizations (GPOs), which are not regulated and essentially negotiate supply purchases for hospitals, have the ability to charge market share to the highest bidder. Zweig said they can do this because the safe harbor provision in the 1987 Medicare anti-kickback law excluded GPOs from criminal prosecution for taking kickbacks from suppliers.

“The more you can pay to a GPO, the more market share you get,” Zweig said.

Because of the exclusive contracts that GPOs award, the number of competitors in the market shrinks, which has led to a shortage of generic prescription drugs – everything from sterile injectables to chemotherapy agents. Continue reading

Prescribing data and the side effects of assumptions #ahcj14

Jaclyn Cosgrove

About Jaclyn Cosgrove

Jaclyn Cosgrove is a medical and health reporter at The Oklahoman. She is attending Health Journalism 2014 on an AHCJ Rural Health Journalism fellowship, which is supported by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

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

Reporter focuses on chronic pain for series on opioid use

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Lisa Bernard-Kuhn

Lisa Bernard-Kuhn

When The Cincinnati Enquirer set out to look at the societal costs of the deadly opioid crisis, reporter Lisa Bernard-Kuhn was assigned to look at the role of chronic pain.

During more than eight months of reporting, she looked into how doctors measure pain, how effect opioids are at treating pain, patients’ expectations and more.

In an article for AHCJ, she explains how she was able to get doctors and patients to talk on the record and shares some of her most useful sources and lessons learned.

Reporter looks at why, how clinic banned drug reps and their samples

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

Markian Hawryluk

Markian Hawryluk

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.

Pharmaceutical industry influence starts with the doctor’s prescribing pen #ahcj13

Tracey Drury

About Tracey Drury

Tracey Drury is a reporter at Buffalo Business First. She is attending Health Journalism 2013 on an AHCJ-New York Health Journalism Fellowship, which is supported by the New York State Health Foundation.

Can a doctor’s prescription be bought for a tuna sandwich?

Whether it’s a tuna sandwich, steak dinner or a four-figure payment, there’s always the possibility of influence. And that’s how conflicts of interest begin in the medical field.

That was the message this morning from reporters Peter Whoriskey of The Washington Post and John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel during their panel on reporting on medical and financial conflicts of interest during AHCJ’s Health Journalism 2013 in Boston.

“Their job is to sell as much product as they can and maximize profits,” Fauber said of the pharmaceutical companies. “One of the ways they do that is by creating financial relationships with various stakeholders, which can be doctors, medical societies or medical schools. While this may be good for the bottom line of the drug companies, it may not work out for the patients.”

Fauber advised journalists to be on the watch for several things: promotional speaking gigs by physicians; participation in continuing medical education (CME) events; financial relationships between medical journal editors and drug companies; and royalties that come back to hospitals and physicians.

“It struck me very quickly that all the cynicism the media brings to politicians or companies, anybody, is held in abeyance for doctors and anybody that wants to heal you,” Fauber said. Continue reading

Even in treatment guidelines, pharma conflicts abound

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

As part of the ongoing Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today series “Side Effects” John Fauber and Ellen Gabler “examined 20 clinical practice guidelines for conditions treated by the 25 top-selling drugs in the United States” and unearthed yet another tactic by which “pharmaceutical companies, with billions in sales at stake, exert a powerful but often unrecognized influence over the practice of American medicine.”

Issued by leading medical associations and government institutions, treatment guidelines are supposed to be based on rigorous science. But the committees that write them have been dominated by doctors who have worked as paid speakers, consultants or advisers for companies selling the recommended drugs.

In their investigation, the duo found:

  • Nine guidelines were written by panels where more than 80 percent of doctors had financial ties to drug companies.
  • Four panels did not require members to disclose any conflicts of interest. Of the 16 that did, 66 percent of doctors on the panels had ties to drug companies.
  • Some guidelines written by conflicted panels recommend drugs that have not been scientifically proven to safely treat conditions, leading to inappropriate or over prescribing. Medical experts have raised such questions about guidelines for anemia, chronic pain and asthma.

For extensive anecdotes and examples, dig into the full piece.

Ruling has potential to impact patient care, advertising

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s John Fauber explains what a federal appeals court ruling this week might mean for patient care, television advertising and many other issues.

The case of United States vs. Alfred Caronia, a pharmaceutical company representative, “involved the right of commercial free speech, applying it to the complicated world of pharmaceutical industry promotion of prescription drugs.”

Caronia was prosecuted for making off-label promotional statements about Xyrem, a drug approved in 2002 to treat narcolepsy patients. He contended his statements were protected by the First Amendment, saying that the government couldn’t “prohibit or criminalize a drug company’s truthful, non-misleading off-label promotion to doctors.”

Fauber notes that “The appeals court essentially agreed, noting that Caronia never conspired to put false or deficient labeling on the drug.”

In his article, Fauber – no stranger to covering conflicts of interest in the medical industry – outlines the surprisingly far-reaching potential effect of the ruling – called a “watershed moment” by one source.

Post-election: What aspects of health reform are reporters focused on?

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

In addition to AHCJ health reform topic leader Joanne Kenen’s predictions for health reform after the election, we’re reading other stories and timelines that show where implementation (you’re going to hear that word A LOT) is going.

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP offers its perspective on what effect the election will have on American health care. Its timeline focuses on “stakeholders,” such as insurers, health care providers, employers, the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries and, yes, consumers. It concludes that the health sector must fundamentally transform the way it operates and offer real value.

Kaiser Health News’ Jay Hancock talked to health policy analysts about what to expect for health reform, with responses that range from expecting the Republican-controlled House to delay implementation by withholding funding to “It’s full-steam ahead with implementation.” Hancock’s story points out the looming deadline to launch health insurance exchanges, the subject of a recent AHCJ webcast that is worth re-visiting now.

Matthew Herper, of Forbes, takes a different tack with his “Note to The Pharmaceutical Industry Upon The Re-Election Of Barack Obama,”in which he tells the industry that it has no friends in politics now and the future lies in innovation. He lays out some visions for the future.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has an interactive timeline to show key dates and provisions in the implementation of the ACA.

On a somewhat lighter – but still useful – note, Kenen pointed out that as health reform moves forward, those of us who write about it need an arsenal of synonyms for “implementation.” See what she and some other top health journalists came up with.

AHCJ webcast
Thursday, Nov. 8, at 1 p.m. ET.

On Thursday, an AHCJ webcast will look at “What does the election mean for senior health?” with an eye to explaining the outcome for seniors on Medicare, older adults who receive long-term care services from Medicaid and other programs that serve our elderly population. The blue-ribbon panel includes moderator Judith Graham, health care journalist and AHCJ topic leader on aging, Joseph Antos of the American Enterprise Institute, Karen Davis of The Commonwealth Fund, and John Rother of the National Coalition on Health Care.

Finally, remember that Kenen and other journalists have been compiling key resources to help cover all aspects of health reform for more than a year in AHCJ’s Core Topic pages on health reform.

We’ll continue to pick out good stories that should help move the story forward and give reporters more story ideas – so check back with Covering Health often. And, if you’ve seen stories you think are helpful, please include links in the comments below.

OxyContin’s early poster children: Where are they now?

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

More than a decade into America’s new age of opiates, the long-term effects of the ubiquitous prescription painkillers are starting to be felt on a real, measurable scale. As part of an evolving investigation for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today, John Fauber and Ellen Gabler drive this home by following up on seven patients – and one physician – featured in an early promotional video for OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma.

Originally conceived as a teaching aid, the video was ultimately used in a marketing campaign in which Purdue sent it to about 15,000 doctors. A Purdue subsidiary has since paid $634 million in penalties for misbranding OxyContin in its various promotional campaigns but, as the reporters found, the patients who used the drug sometimes paid an even steeper price, as demonstrated by the subsequent lives of the seven “poster children” featured in that video. I’ll let Fauber and Gabler take it from here.

The subjects who spoke glowingly of their experiences with OxyContin in the video 14 years ago offer a case history of sorts.

Two of the seven patients were active opioid abusers when they died. A third became addicted, suffered greatly, and quit after realizing she was headed for an overdose. Three patients still say the drug helped them cope with their pain and improved their quality of life. A seventh patient declined to answer questions.

The doctor who enlisted his patients for the video and played a starring role, now says some of the statements went too far.

Within this broad sketch, the reporters find much room for story and nuance, touching upon everything from the impact of the drug on patients with a history of addiction to the legitimate success stories of patients who had their lives changed by the powerful narcotic. It’s a well-drawn, big-picture portrait of the swath opiates have cut through modern American, told through the lens of a unique and fascinating narrative device.