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Friday, February 6, 2009

Don't back down on disclosure: Drug companies' payments to doctors

The Boston Globe published an editorial yesterday encouraging the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to stand firm in its regulations that limit the gifts and money that drug companies give to doctors.

Calvin Timberlake would probably agree. Calvin’s story appeared in this blog here. His surgeon had invested in the manufacturer of Prodisc, and he chose to install a Prodisc in Calvin's spine to relieve his lower back pain. The Prodisc later came apart, requiring an immediate operation to remove it, and leaving Calvin permanently in pain. The surgeons who had written the medical journal articles that persuaded the FDA to approve the device had large investments in its manufacturer.

Doctors should disclose their investments to medical journal editors and to their patients, and state government regulators should insist they do so.

Advice: Ask the officials in your state government’s public health department to require disclosure of funds that doctors receive for all purposes other than direct medical care, including everything from pens and pads of paper to research funding.

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