Congrats to Harvard Medical School

Back in October I wrote an article about doctors getting paid to market drugs…you can read the article here.

Harvard Madical School Boston
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In this article I talk about Eli Lilly releasing data on how much money they pay Doctors to talk about their drugs.  I applauded them for it, and continue to do so.

It appears that Harvard Medical School (HMS) is sensitive to this issue as well.  Could they possibly be reading this blog…OK c’mon I can dream can’t I??

HMS recently passed rules that will prohibit its 11,000 faculty from giving promotional talks for drug and medical device makers and accepting personal gifts, travel, or meals, under a new policy intended partly to guard against companies’ use of Harvard’s prestige to market their products.

Now that is cool, they don’t want to be using their great name to promote stuff, however, the article got even better.

The new rules will begin at the start of 2011 and will go a long way to keeping doctors from being looked at as marketers.  Dr. Robert Mayer who is on the committee that wrote the policy stated, “We’re anxious to be viewed publicly as doing what’s in the best interest of our patients.’’

I cannot tell you how happy that statement makes me.

Harvard is allowing the doctors to continue working with companies in research type setting which is vitally important to furthering medical discoveries.  What Harvard is no longer allowing is having the doctors work as paid speakers  and they have capped the amount of money they can be paid to $10,000 for clinical trial work.

Again I would like to say congrats to Harvard Medical School for increasing the transparency between doctor and the drug companies.

If you would like to read the article in the Globe you can see it here.

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Doctors Ghost Writing Articles. Is That Unethical?

The practice of hiring someone to write an article and you put your name on it as if you wrote it is called ghost writing.

Recently the large drug company Eli Lilly (EL), inventor of Prozac amongst other things, has come under fire for using ghost writers to market a drug.   According to unsealed company files they hired scientists to write these articles for publication and then asked doctors to put their name on them, passing them off as their own.

Sleazy, maybe a little….unethical, I don’t know, it is a tough one.

EL is getting accused of hiring scientists to write favorable articles.  If that bears out to be true, then yes that is extremely unethical.  Now if they hired non biased scientists and asked them to write articles on the up and up then the situation gets a little murkier.

Here in Boston we have had a bunch of journalists get fired over not citing sources when reporting something.  They passed the info off as theirs when it clearly wasn’t.  It is called plagiarism.  Now we appear to have the same thing going on with drug marketing.

As a total aside, is anyone else horrified at how much of this marketing goes on?  Aren’t our doctors supposed to be the experts at this?  Could you imagine being an MD and having people show-up with ads from some magazine that promises them better…….  and they have to explain to them why this drug may or may not be good for them.  Way to bog the system down.

What is the solution?  Transparency in all medical marketing and advertising.  If a ghost writer wrote an article, don’t let a Doctor pass off that he or she wrote the article.  Why not have it stated clearly that Doctor X reviewed the article but didn’t write it.

This of course brings up one other question.  If Doctor X endorses an article for a drug that turns out to harm people should Dr. X be held liable?

For that I vote yes.