Many journalists are aware of the drug industry’s attempts to gain positive attention by buying placement within the nation’s health care news. A few occasionally write or talk about it, as Harder and Rosenthal did publicly. But, writes Gary Schwitzer in Health News Review, we don’t talk often enough about why it matters if health care industry entities are allowed to advertise within, or sponsor, health care journalism content. Americans spend more than $3 trillion on health care. Conflicts of interest in health care and research are rampant. But who talks about conflicts of interest in health care journalism? There is a great potential harm in journalists – and the audience they serve – becoming numb to the presence of and influence of drug companies and other industry entities in the news and information disseminated to the public. In a three part series, Health News Review examines this problem. Read Part 1. Read Part 2.
Nassau County on Long Island filed a lawsuit Monday against several pharmaceutical companies, alleging their prescription painkillers helped fuel the opioid epidemic that costs the county millions of dollars annually to combat, reports the Wall Street Journal. The complaint, filed in Nassau County Supreme Court, targets several companies including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Purdue Pharma LP and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. The defendants also include drug distributors and doctors.
After the national outrage over EpiPen’s increase of the price of a box epinephrine injections to $609 last August, Mylan, the manufacturer, promised to live up to its motto of doing what’s right, not what’s easy. But, writes Charles Duhigg in The New York Times, last week regulators said the company had most likely overcharged Medicaid by $1.27 billion for EpiPens and the retail price of a box was still $609. The device contains about $1 of the drug epinephrine.
A recent article in The New York Times provided insights into the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to ensure that any new policies to lower drug prices would not hurt their profits.
In the first quarter of this year, the pharmaceutical and health products industry spent $78 million on lobbying, 14% more than in the same period last year.
In the 2016 election cycle, the industry contributed more than $58 million to the election campaigns of members of Congress and presidential candidates, a 20% jump from the 2012 cycle
The industry pays 1,100 lobbyists, more than two for each member of Congress.
Last year Representative John Shimkus, Republican from Illinois, helped persuade the Obama Administration to kill a project that would have lowered drug prices in Medicare Part B, which spent $24.6 billion on prescription drugs in 2015. In the last election cycle, Shimkus received $300,00 in drug industry contributions.
According to data from 2015 Open Payments reports, reports a new study in JAMA, 48% of physicians were reported to have received a total of $2.4 billion in payments from biomedical and pharmaceutical industries and group purchasing organizations. Physicians in surgical vs primary care specialties and male vs female physicians had a higher likelihood and higher value of payments.
Transparency International’s Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare Programme has launched a set of new principles focused on strengthening ethical standards across the pharmaceutical sector in Latin America, promoting integrity and ethical business practices. “Business Principles for Promoting Integrity in the Pharmaceutical Sector in Latin America” calls on pharma companies to implement these Principles to help reduce the risk of corruption, which holds back effective healthcare, for example by denying millions of people to fair access to necessary, and often life-saving medicines. The Pharma Integrity Principles for Latin America aim to promote integrity in the pharmaceutical sector and guide companies in eliminating bribery and related conflicts of interest; demonstrating that the pharma industry is able to do business with integrity; making a positive contribution to improving business standards of integrity, transparency and accountability; and development, or strengthening of a practical and effective internal anti-corruption or integrity programs.
In a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine, Robin Feldman and Connie Wang write that pharmaceutical companies have become adept at converting regulatory pathways into vehicles for profit-boosting strategies. They study the “citizen-petition process” that the Food and Drug Administration implemented in the 1970s to give the average citizen a way to voice concerns. Using 12 years of FDA data, they found that the “concerned citizen” is frequently a drug company raising frivolous or questionable claims in a last-ditch effort to hold off competition.