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General News    H1'ed 2/17/14

How Pharma Got Doctors to Prescribe Risperdal, Wellbutrin, Bextra, Neurontin, Prempro and More

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Psychiatrist Dan Carlat wrote in the New York Times that he was "astonished at the level of detail that drug companies were able to acquire about doctors' prescribing habits" and that his drug reps told him "they received printouts tracking local doctors' prescriptions every week." A 2011 Supreme Court ruling found the collection and dissemination of prescribing behavior was "speech" and protected by the First Amendment. (See: a corporation is a person")




In order to keep their state licenses and satisfy insurance regulations, doctors must enroll in a certain amount of CMEs-- continuing medical education courses. Not surprisingly, these classes are often "taught" for free by Pharma funded specialists sparing doctors from having to pay for them but providing the objectivity of a time-share presentation. One such class, called "Atypical Antipsychotics in Major Depressive Disorder: When Current Treatments Are Not Enough," funded by Seroquel maker AstraZeneca was taught by former Emory University psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff, who lost his department chairmanship due to unreported Pharma income. Another CME   called "Bipolar Disorder: Individualizing Treatment to Improve Patient Outcomes," was "taught" by Trisha Suppes, who admits to funding by Abbott, AstraZeneca; GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Novartis, Pfizer, Wyeth, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Shire and four more Pharma companies. Another CME, "Individualizing ADHD Pharmacotherapy with Disruptive Behavioral Disorders" was taught by the Johnson & Johnson-funded Robert L. Findling and refers to Risperdal or its generic version, risperdone, 13 times. Many CMEs teach doctors about the lucrative new disease category of Adult ADHD and how to keep kids from going off their ADHD meds when they get to college. Ka-ching.





Being published in medical journals is essential to academic doctors but researching, writing and reworking papers is a formidable job. Luckily for doctors, Pharma is willing to help--as long as the doctors write what Pharma wants.   In just three years, medical writers associated with Parke-Davis, which became Pfizer, wrote 13 papers extolling the benefits of Neurontin, including in the prestigious Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine , in the names of the "author" doctors. Medical writers at Wyeth, also now Pfizer, wrote more than 50 papers pushing the now discredited Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in the names of doctor "authors."


"Is There an Association Between Hormone Replacement Therapy and Breast Cancer?" asked one article in the Journal of Women's Health . Guess what it concludes? "The Role of Hormone Replacement Therapy in the Prevention of Postmenopausal Heart Disease," another ghostwritten paper, is titled, despite HRT's established heart risks, appearing in the Archives of Internal Medicine . And despite HRT's links to dementia, another paper, which also ran in the Archives of Internal Medicine, was titled "The Role of Hormone Therapy in the Prevention of Alzheimer's disease." Maybe there needs to be a new joke about the Pharma-funded papers. The Devil tells doctors they can contribute to medical journals if they're willing to write marketing messages instead of about medical research. "What's the catch?" some ask.


Clinical Trials


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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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