A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Prescription Drug Reform

Harvard Medical Students Rally in Support of Prescription Reform

Earlier this month about 40 medical students gathered on the steps of Harvard Medical School to call on the school to adopt a strong universal conflict of interest policy and to urge the state to maintain funding for an evidence-based prescription drug outreach and education program to physicians. Dr. Arnold Relman, professor at Harvard Medical School who has studied relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and health care providers, praised students for being model medical professionals. He urged them to continue to make clear that they will do what’s best for the patient and not... Read more »

Difficult Cuts

Yesterday Governor Patrick released his budget cuts, required under state law due to declining revenues. Detailed information is available on the state web site, here. The cuts -- which add up to more than $1 billion -- could not be done without hitting health care programs. Health care is about a third of the state budget, and health care programs took their share of the cuts. Some important priorities were spared, however, and we commend the Governor, Secretary Kirwan and Secretary Bigby for keeping the solid commitment to the success of health reform. Read more »

Prescription Data Mining: Will it be a Supreme Decision?

Rx policy watchers and pharmaceutical industry executives alike are anxiously awaiting a 1st Circuit Federal Court of Appeals decision that could determine the fate of state legislative efforts to ban the use of physician prescribing information for marketing purposes (also known as “prescription data mining”). Most involved in the suit (Ayotte vs. IMS), which was precipitated by the industry's challenge to New Hampshire's 2006 first-in-the-country data mining law, anticipated a court decision this past summer. But it was not to be – leaving states’ efforts to put an end to the pharmaceutical... Read more »

Rx Reform: Massachusetts has the Right Fix for a Broken System

Saturday's New York Times included the latest in a series of examples of the lack of accountability in financial relationships between pharmaceutical companies and physicians.  The article highlighted recent revelations about Dr. Charles Nemeroff from Emory University.  Dr. Nemeroff informed Emory in 2004 that he would receive less than $10,000 a year from GlaxoSmithKline, when in fact he received $170,000 that year alone (between 2000 and 2006 he reported receiving $35,000 from GSK, when, in fact, he received more than $960,000)!  This follows recent reports of other physicians withholding... Read more »

Pharmaceutical Companies Open the Window

Two of the country’s largest pharmaceutical companies announced this week that they will begin to disclose payments they make to physicians and other health care providers. Eli Lilly announced that, starting in 2009, it will disclose all payments of over $500 that it makes to doctors for services including speeches, research and advice. That announcement was closely followed by a similar announcement by Merck. These companies recognize that allowing the public to understand the financial relationships between doctors and pharmaceutical companies is critical to allowing us to know the... Read more »

Pharma: Actions Speak Louder Than, you know

Do you remember this phrase: “a direct and immediate devastating impact?” That’s from the full-page ad the biotech industry took out trying to convince the Governor to veto the comprehensive quality and cost bill, that included enforcement of the pharmaceutical and device industry’s own voluntary guidelines. You might also remember the letter from GlaxoSmithKline, threatening to leave the state if the law was passed. Those of us that support the gift ban thought it was an empty threat at the time – particularly in light of the fact that the state had just pledged $1 billion to the industry.... Read more »

Breaking News: Gov Signs Health Cost/Quality Bill, Including Drug Marketing Reforms

This afternoon, Governor Patrick signed into law the comprehensive health care cost and quality legislation (press release). This follows Thursday's signing of the supplemental appropriations bill, which included the revenue measures to meet the MassHealth and Commonwealth Care funding gaps for this fiscal year. Read more »

Two “Must Reads” on the Pharma Front…

The responses (and factual corrections) to the industry’s full-page Globe ad keep rolling in. Senator Moore (Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing) posted a great answer to the ad on WBUR's Commonhealth yesterday. This is definitely worth checking out – here are some excerpted highlights: “In other words, the Massachusetts law puts patients first, the integrity of physicians a close second, and enhancing corporate profits further down our list of priorities.” “If the industry is serious about its own code of marketing and wants its member companies to follow, how... Read more »

Truth in advertising? Not for BIO

For an industry that regularly tops the charts on profit margins, we weren’t surprised to see the full page ad in the Boston Globe today, signed by Biotechnology Industry Association, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts High Technology Council, Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, and the PhRMA itself. To be honest, we were sort of surprised that they didn’t underwrite an entire special edition of the Globe. Read more »

Why Support the Pharmaceutical Drug and Medical Device Provisions in S.2863

Late Thursday night the Legislature enacted S. 2863, a comprehensive strategy to contain the growth in health care costs and improve access to quality care. The legislation now awaits the Governor’s signature. Since Senate President Murray introduced the bill in March, the most debated component of the bill has been the section related to pharmaceutical and medical device company gifts to health care providers. The final language enacted is a good compromise and a great first step for the Commonwealth. It requires the Department of Public Health to implement (and enforce jointly with the... Read more »

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