Tag Archives: wall street journal

APA’s new policy seeks collaboration with pharma

The Wall Street Journal‘s Shirley Wang looked beyond the American Psychiatric Association’s new conflict of interest guidelines to explore what the APA’s loosening of ties with major pharmaceutical manufacturers meant for their business model and future. The APA has lost 10 percent of its revenue – about $7.5 million – over the past year as pharma is spending less on advertising in their journals and sponsored symposia have been phased out of the APA annual meeting. That last move, Wang found, cost the organization about $2 million.

In an interesting twist, Wang says that while some of the decline in pharma advertising can be attributed to the recession and APA’s attention to COI, some of it comes “because the industry faces its own pressures to avoid potential conflicts of interest.” Overall, pharma’s ad spending in health care publications has slipped from $865 million in 2005 to $626 million in 2009.

Reactions to these tightening regulations and budgets among APA membership has been mixed, as Wang illustrates:

At the annual conference in 2008 in Washington, D.C., Dr. Scully recalled meeting a group of young residents and medical students at the bottom of an escalator who wanted to “express their outrage” at the industry influence at the meeting. At the top of the escalator ride, he encountered another group of doctors upset that there weren’t enough seats in the industry-sponsored symposia. “A number of members liked those [symposia] and they liked that they got fed,” said Dr. Scully.

In an accompanying blog post, Wang writes that the APA hopes its new guidelines will increase transparency, decrease conflict and still maintain a good, cooperative relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.


COI policy change has medical associations talking

State NAMI chapters got pharma money too

Wall Street Journal health blogger Katherine Hobson writes that, according to an investigation by Sen. Chuck Grassley, state chapters of the National Alliance of Mental Illness received millions of dollars in contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturers in a five-year period. This follows an Oct. 2009 New York Times report which found that “drug makers from 2006 to 2008 contributed nearly $23 million to the alliance, about three-quarters of its donations.”

The group’s state chapters – except for Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut and Hawaii – reported their own donations to Grassley, he wrote in a letter to NAMI’s executive director and president of the board of directors. According to the letter, the California chapter received $632,000 in contributions between January 2005 and October 2009, the most of any state. Ohio NAMI received $623,000 and New York NAMI $448,000. The top ten states received a total of $3.84 million.

Network to warn pharmacists of drug errors

The Wall Street Journal‘s Laura Landro spotlighted a new national network designed to send e-mail alerts to as many as 55,000 pharmacists.

The network is designed to alert pharmacists of dangerous and life-threatening errors as well as to educate them on how to prevent those specific errors from also occurring in their own respective practices. The system is intended to help the same errors from being repeated time after time across the country.

medsPhoto by jypsygen via Flickr.

Landro wrote that “Medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure approximately 1.3 million people annually in the United States,” and added that there are some indications that the weakening economy has had a negative impact on medication safety.

Here’s Landro explaining the new network:

The non-profit Institute for Safe Medication Practices, which is certified by the federal government to collect error reports and other information about quality breaches, and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists are launching a new National Alert Network for Serious Medication Errors. The network, which was unveiled last month, will be used to send email alerts to 35,000 pharmacists working in hospitals and health systems, as well as physicians and nurses, when a dangerous or life-threatening error is reported to ISMP. The two organizations are also in discussions to extend the network to as many as 26 other organizations that promote safe medication use. The hope is that widely spreading the word about such errors will cause doctors and pharmacists to be more cautious—and ultimately prevent future mix-ups. Relevant alerts will also be sent to 20,000 drugstore pharmacists.

Landro also mentioned ISMP’s consumer med safety alert portal and the FDA’s consumer-focused error reporting tool. She also goes into greater detail as to how drug mishaps happen, and into what can be done to prevent them.


Hensley cast as ‘Johnny Appleseed’ in profile

Medical Marketing & Media’s Matthew Arnold profiled AHCJ member Scott Hensley, of the NPR Health Blog, calling him “digital health journalism’s Johnny Appleseed” for his role in starting health blogs at media behemoths such as The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio.

Scott Hensley (Photo by Duncan Moore)

Scott Hensley (Photo by Duncan Moore)

The piece covers Hensley’s transition from the medical device industry to the media, his rise through the ranks and his attitude toward blog post topic selection.

In addition to the usual channels, Covering Health readers will remember Hensley from his distinguished run of contributions here, between his stints at the WSJ and NPR.

WSJ looks at effects of Penn. outcomes database

The Wall Street Journal‘s Thomas Burton has taken a look at the effects of one state’s commitment to publishing hospital data. Since 1989 Pennsylvania has compiled and published data on hospital outcomes and, to a lesser extent, costs. Collecting the data isn’t cheap, estimates of the cost to the state’s 172 acute-care hospitals range from $7 million to $10 million, but Burton’s story makes it clear that the investment has paid off. Burton reinforces that impression with statistics (“An August 2008 study in the American Journal of Medical Quality reported that Pennsylvania in-hospital odds of death were 21% to 41% lower than those in other states.”) and convincing examples (by basing their health plans on outcomes data, companies were able to save millions). His profile of a now-defunct Hershey company plan is particularly interesting.

“High-quality care costs less — always,” says David B. Nash, a medical-quality expert and dean at Thomas Jefferson University’s School of Population Health in Philadelphia. “If the federal government could behave like a savvy shopper, that would change the health-cost game overnight. But the government is a bill payer, not a savvy shopper.”

Burton also reports that some stakeholders, given the success of Pennsylvania’s example, are pushing for hospital outcomes research to be part of the $1 billion stimulus investment into comparative effectiveness.

The White House is looking at publishing information possibly including medical outcomes as part of overhaul efforts, officials say. Quality data could also be used in existing programs. “There is a clear understanding from the Obama administration that both Medicare and Medicaid need to move in the direction of what’s happening in Pennsylvania,” says Jonathan Blum, director of the government’s Center for Medicare Management.