Thursday, July 31, 2008

Just how bad is it in doctors' offices? This bad.

From Pfizer's CafePharma board:

Today, 02:51 AM

Kicked out of an office for NOTHING!

Just heard that my counterpart got kicked out of an office for not leaving the leftovers at a recent luncheon. My counterpart says she was only cleaning up and she didn't so ANYTHING, but a nurse told me she was doing it to be mean to a rude receptionist who had not had lunch yet. Meanwhile I am blocked out of the office too! Can only drop samples now. Does anyone else have stories about getting kicked out of an office for nothing? Isn't this a little harsh??? Please let me know that I am not crazy!

Today, 03:41 AM

Re: Kicked out of an office for NOTHING!
Get used to it, that's how bad the industry is getting. If they say bring lunch for 30, only bring lunch for 20. don't go all out on bringing in lunch either. I only bring sandwichs to lunch (never usually pay more than $75 for a lunch). Buy extra things for yourself so it looks like you are using your budget. Hope that helps.

Today, 07:04 AM

Re: Kicked out of an office for NOTHING!
It is so out of control now that I had an office that I knew only had X number of employees demand 2X and when I only brought X they were mad. They see the lunch as part of their compensation and should be able to take food home to their families. To a point, I can sympathies, as they do not get paid much. My budget was running out and one time I took an unopened case of water for a lunch the next day and was reamed over it. It has become toxic and even though I have done this too long to move on, I decided yesterday that I have to for my own mental health. The job now is: deliver samples and deliver food. No respect, no intelligence. I have seen a change in the kind of people who do this job over my many yrs. The more intelligent people have self selected out of it, leaving only the timid and those who stay in it for a yr or two.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Warning: Don't overfeed the pigeons!

Executive from Pfizer's legal department pleads guilty to child pornography

From The Day:

Just a few months ago, Alan Hesketh was a well-respected pharmaceutical executive - a family man who owned properties around the world.

Now, Hesketh, 61, is an admitted child pornographer, unemployed and headed to federal prison for at least five years. He had been living a secret and sordid life on the Internet, trading sexually explicit images of young children, many of them engaged in sadistic or masochistic acts.

The former director of global patents at Pfizer Inc., who has been held without bond since he was arrested in March, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport Tuesday to receiving and distributing child pornography.

When marshals led him into the courtroom, Hesketh, tall and thin in prison scrubs, smiled and nodded to his wife of 39 years and his son and daughter-in-law. He sat with his attorney, Jonathan J. Einhorn, and answered a series of questions about his crime before he was asked to enter a plea.

”Guilty,” he told the clerk.

The judge scheduled the sentencing for Oct. 17. Hesketh offered his slim wrists for handcuffing before the U.S. marshals led him away. His wife politely declined to speak to a reporter from the London Daily Mail before leaving the courtroom. The Heskeths have four grown children, all living in England, and are grandparents.

Federal agents arrested Hesketh at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on March 26 after determining he had posed as “Suzibibaby,” a 28-year-old New York City woman, while trading child pornography with a man from Buffalo, N.Y. The agents found 1,981 images of child pornography on a portable “thumb drive” that Hesketh carried with him and an additional 315 images on his laptop computer. Agents who searched his home at 202 Montauk Ave. in Stonington after his arrest did not find any additional child pornography.

His admitted crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, and under federal sentencing guidelines Hesketh would be subject to a 10-to-12.5-year sentence based on his lack of a criminal record and other factors. Judge Warren W. Eginton noted from the bench that he is bound only by the five-year mandatory minimum. Eginton said he may impose supervised release of five years to life, and that the U.S. probation officer assigned to the case “will become a very important person in your life.”

Since Hesketh is a British citizen - he had been living in the United States under a work visa - he faces possible deportation. If not, the likely conditions of his release would include registering as a sex offender and undergoing mental health treatment. During his supervised release, the government would be able to search, at any time, his home, automobile, computer and workplace and to subject him to polygraph examinations.

Judge Donna F. Martinez had refused to set bond following Hesketh's arrest because Hesketh owns properties overseas - including residences in England and the Isle of Man - and has the resources and connections to flee the country. At the request of Hesketh's attorney, Judge Eginton agreed to hear a new bond argument on Monday. Einhorn said outside the courtroom that he would be asking the judge to release Hesketh to house arrest in Stonington until sentencing.

Gregory Nadolski, the Buffalo man whose arrest led agents to Hesketh, was released to home confinement after signing a promise to appear in court. His case is pending.

Toyota Prius: Only suckers buy this car right now!

Having nothing else to do, I recently went by the local Toyota dealer.

Wanted to find out what all the fuss was about.

Of course, several Priuses were prominently displayed. They kind of looked a bit like flimsy tin cans with too small wheels.

Then I checked the sticker and went into shock . . $30,000!!!!!!!!!!

You gotta be kidding, Mr. Toyota dealer.

Nope. He wasn't.

The car base price was close to $25,000, then he'd added a tiny stripe and "clear paint protection." Cost, $2,500. (The dealer clearly thinks I'm stupid if I'm paying that for rub-on stripe.)

Plus a mark-up for "market conditions," another $2,500. (Translation, we don't have enough cars so we'll just gouge you.)

The way I see it most cars get discounted about 10%, so that should have taken $2,500 off the price, meaning, if I was the sucker buying this car compared to a "regular car" I just would have paid $7,500 too much for this $22,000 hybrid.

Of course, Prius mileage is great at about 45 mpg compared to around 20 for most regular cars.

But how long would it take to earn back those $7,500 lost in paying a crazy price?

I estimate I'd have to drive the car for about five years, before I even break even. By that time it might be time for a trade-in, hence I would have saved no money for the pleasure of driving this thing.

Still, I see more and more neighbors with their new Priuses in their garages. A sucker is born every second, and right now they're all buying Toyota Priuses at inflated prices, saving nothing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Merck and Schering-Plough engaged in "a pattern of racketeering activity"

. . . according to a civil suit filed by Suffolk County, New York.

Here is page 25 of the complaint, click to read:

This has some major implications for those to companies. Maybe.

Full story at Schearlings got Plowed.

Monte Python drivers passengers crazy. Just like the real airlines.

Learn more from Monty Python at

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Last Lecture" Randy Pausch died today.

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor whose final lecture inspired millions, died early today in Virginia of pancreatic cancer.

If you didn't watch his lecture on YouTube, you should watch it now.


"DRUG company giant Pfizer has been hit with a record $200,000 fine" in Australia

Pfizer Australia was fined $200,000, the largest one-off fine Medicines Australia have given a company, after its representatives in NSW and Queensland were found guilty of telling doctors a cholesterol-lowering drug produced by rival AstraZeneca could cause kidney damage.

The company was found guilty of a range of breaches of the code including making false and misleading claims and the most serious breach of bringing "discredit to and reduction of confidence in the industry" writes the Age.

But is that really the news?



If this is the biggest fine you ever handed out to a $50 billion corporation which just doubled its profit in the first quarter, do you reeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaallly think you're making a difference?

A statement by Pfizer Australia yesterday said an investigation had established that while representatives "may have made some statements of the kind alleged by AstraZeneca … no senior manager at Pfizer Australia was aware that the conduct was taking place".

Vytorin increased risk of cancer 70%

"The 2,000-patient SEAS study found a roughly 70% increase in the risk of dying from cancer. But the Oxford analysis of the two ongoing studies, called IMPROVE-IT and SHARP, found about a 33% increase in the risk of dying from cancer, considered borderline in statistical significance."

Vytoring a 70% or 33% increase in cancer?

Stay tuned.

More in USA Today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Former BrandweekNRX writer Jim Edwards is baaaaaack!

With his own, new blog, appropritely called Jim Edward's NRX.

As always, great reading, perhaps even more wonderful after Jim's year "off" at Columbia Journalist School for Established Journalists!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Crazy day for Schering-Plough: Vytorin linked to cancer?

Stock down 10%, then recoups all the losses by midday, then down 15% as Vytorin, an anti-cholesterol agent jointly sold by Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp., failed to show it was effective in stopping progression of a cardiac condition known as aortic stenosis, a partial blockage of the heart's aortic valve, Norwegian researchers said Monday.

Whew . . . what a roller coaster . . .

But there's more:

There were numerically more cancer deaths in the group of patients treated with Vytorin compared with those on a placebo, although the difference could have been statistically due to chance.

Fred immedately could rely on the American Heart Association's president-elect Clyde Yancy who said the latest data on cancer deaths is "an errant signal for now."

The stock market didn't care and put SGP in a tailspin. Again.

Schering-Plough makes themselves look like idiots. Again.

Schering-Plough stock is down over 10% in heavy trading today.

What happened?

Here is what probably happened, straight from Scherinlings-got-plowed:

Act I:

Compare Vytorin to a placebo (i.e., stack the deck).

Act II:

Schedule Schering and Merck Second Quarter 2008 Earnings Calls for pre-market-open on July 21, 2008.

Act III:

Delay both calls -- to after market-close, on July 21, 2008 -- for "an important update" on SEAS: Vytorin to placebo.

H I L A R I O U S L Y. . . . bad theatre! Why?

Well, what is missing from the above plot-synopsis is this: According to paragraph two of Schering-Plough's press release, the SEAS update will be published around 1 PM EDT today -- during the trading day.

Were this "Norway Update" truly material, it would not be published during the trading day, as at a minimum, an NYSE Halt-Trading process would be invoked -- with a "News-Pending" flag on the stock's ticker symbol. If Schering opens (at all) this morning -- on the NYSE -- in about 20 minutes' time, then this is all a stunt.

My prediction, then: There will be no Earth-shatteringly-positive actual news from the SEAS update -- out of Sweden.

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's Friday evening and Kaylon McDonald sings Dr. Long John Blues

Anonymous FDA Whistleblower Site up and running.


The world is changing fast for bad corporations and corrupt bureaucracies.

The problems inside the FDA with repeated retaliation against agency employees who get caught in the middle of management and their clients, the drug companies, now have their own web site: Thoreau-FDA.

And the authors of this site remain true to one of the most effective whistleblower tenets in a world owned by corporate and political interests: They are all anonymous.

Catch them if you can FDA!

George W. Bush Sewage Plant

Coming soon to San Francisco . . . we hope.

Local Republicans say the plan stinks and they will oppose it.

PharmaGiles taken down by Pharma Goons??

What happened??

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pfizer HR Sr VP's Private Helicopter Debacle: From CafePharma to Pharmalot

It started in May with a post on Cafe Pharma:

Is it appropriate for a member of Pfizer's Executive Leadership Team to commute to her/his job by corporate helicopter and have the company pick up the tab? Most colleagues who live in New Jersey have to take NJ Transit into New York City. What would shareholders think if they were made aware of efforts to conceal this generous benefit as Pfizer is desperately attempting to cut costs? These and other questions might make for compelling investigative journalism.

After a month of debate among Pfizer employees on Cafe Pharma about this unusual perk, the story broke on Pharmalot today:

The Pfizer Exec And The $300K Helicopter Bill

Some people drive to work. Others take a commuter train, subway or bus. There are myriad ways, after all, to travel to Pfizer’s corporate headquarters on East 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan. One exec, however, preferred helicopter rides and that expense, among others, caused a dilemma for ceo Jeff Kindler who, for a time, wanted the drugmaker to pay for such luxuries, our sources tell us.

In the midst of cutbacks that are costing thousands of Pfizer employees their jobs, Kindler late last year believed various expenses incurred by several execs were justified. One example - the weekly helicopter commute Mary McLeod, Pfizer’s senior vp of human resources, took to and from her Maryland home, sources say.

Executive travel on corporate planes is regularly charged to companies, of course. However, several members of Pfizer’s staff pointed out that not all of the expenses could be justified as wholly related to business activities and the info should be reported in the annual proxy. This left Kindler with a difficult choice - disclose such payments at a time when Pfizer is laying off employees or require the execs to reimburse the drugmaker for a portion of the expenses that couldn’t be justified.

In the end, several execs were handed bills. McLeod, for instance, was asked to reimburse Pfizer nearly $300,000 for her helicopter commutes, our sources say. A Pfizer spokesman declined to discuss specifics, but did send us this statement: “Across Pfizer, every expense is being reviewed. From the manufacturing floor to the executive suite, we are committed to leveraging every dollar.”

Do Pfizer business offices in Africa provide cover for covert U.S. agents?

Why would I ask such a question? you may ask.

Of course it is well known through various published accounts, such as White House-outed CIA agent Valerie Plame's heavily redacted book, that the U.S. security services occasionally ask private corporations to serve as "cover" for their undercover agents.

The reason I'm asking the question about Pfizer and Africa is that certain posts I've written are attracting a highly unusual interest in highly unusual places.

And concerns expressed in some of those posts have been quite literally transmitted to some of those unusual places working with very secret parts of the Department of Defense.

In order not to mess with the U.S. government I'll avoid my regular habit of disclosing names and anything else I know.

Stay tuned.

Come to think of it . . . could former Pfizer managing director for Pfizer Nigeria, Ms Ngozi Oluwatoyin Edozien, who's been on the run from her home country since the Trovan litigation in Nigeria exploded actually be a secret U.S. agent?

She was born in Nigeria but grew up in the U.S. and went to Harvard Business School where she could've easily been recruited by the CIA. She then became a McKinsey consultant and worked in the UK and France before returning to Africa, a continent in major political turmoil.

Now why would a Harvard-educated, brilliant woman who got out of Africa do such a thing?

We're just asking . . .


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Surgeon sued for giving anesthetized patient temporary tattoo

In a lawsuit filed yesterday, a Camden County woman accused her orthopedic surgeon of "rubbing a temporary tattoo of a red rose" on her belly while she was under anesthesia.

The patient discovered the tattoo below the panty line the next morning, when her husband was helping her get dressed to go home after the operation for a herniated disc, her attorney, Gregg A. Shivers, said in a phone interview yesterday.

The doctor's attorney, Agre, who had seen neither the board complaint nor the lawsuit, said the doctor had "never been accused of anything."

"Most of the patients are delighted by Dr. Kirshner's sense of humor," he said, adding that the 51-year-old surgeon who lives in Lumberton and did his medical training at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia is "renowned as a jovial guy and regarded as a doctor who has terrific relations with his patients and with his staff."

"He vigorously denies that any action of his was intended to offend the patient," Agre said, noting that the marks the surgeon has left on his patients "are like children's tattoos. Kids put them on themselves and they wash right off."

Full story.

Pharma Law's opinion: Only in the U.S. . . .

Think we've reached the housing bottom? Think again.

Scary image.

U.S ranked #48 on freedom of press, after Estonia, Slovakia, Sweden, Namibia, Nicaragua, to mention a few . . .

So sad.

Barack Obama and John McCain go to war with Big Pharma

America has declared war on drugs, an industry that is bleeding the nation dry. The drug kingpins are running scared and, for the first time, the political mood on both Right and Left is in favour of taking action. The presidential contenders Barack Obama and John McCain have drugs at the top of the agenda and the stock prices of the drug merchants are crumbling.

These are the legitimate drug barons - Pfizer, Merck and Britain's GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Selling lifestyle drugs and medicines to alleviate the diseases of America's affluent society made pharmaceutical companies rich.

But now the pool of available private cash is diminished - drained by the credit crunch and real estate collapse. Government is feeling the pinch and, for the first time since President Johnson signed the original Medicare Bill in 1965, a serious discussion about socialised medicine is beginning in the United States.

It is hardly surprising, because, despite what you may have heard, the US Government is already the biggest buyer in the US pharmaceutical market. Americans spend about £140 billion annually on medicine, compared with £11 billion in the UK. According to World Health Organisation statistics, American expenditure per head on healthcare is double the amount in Britain and a large part of that higher investment is related to the cost of drugs.

On average, for the same drug, an American pays twice that paid in the UK. American insurers pick up a great deal of the bill and their lack of efficiency is a big bone of contention, but the heaviest burden falls on the taxpayer because 45 per cent of total expenditure on healthcare in America is borne by government.

It's a colossal bill, but the American taxpayer doesn't get any pricing power for his dollar. In Britain, most other European countries and Canada, national agencies, such as the NHS, negotiate with the pharma giants, bully suppliers and set tariffs for a list of approved drugs.

In the US, such intervention is anathema - the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) approves drugs for their safety, but price and availability are market-driven and the drug barons argue that freedom leads to choice, a multiplicity of products and more rapid introduction of new medicines.

Into this jungle of corporate lobbyists, union activists and consumer firebrands, the presidential candidates are taking their first, tentative steps. Healthcare reform is dangerous territory. Hillary Clinton failed at her first attempt, but the costs have risen since - drug prices are rising at a rate of 7 per cent a year at a time when Americans are feeling poorer.

According to polls, healthcare costs are a bigger issue than Iraq for most Americans, hardly surprising given that it affects a greater number. Still, it is alarming for the pharma bosses to hear the Republican candidate bashing their industry, even supporting the direct importation of cheap drugs from abroad.

Many pensioners fly to Canada in search of cheaper prescription medicine and there is a continuing legal battle between state and federal government as state employee health benefit organisations seek to tap sources of cheap medicine north of the border.

Senator Obama also supports imports, but he wants to go further and grasp the nettle of pricing. He wants Medicare to negotiate directly with the drug giants, much as the NHS fixes drug prices in Britain.

This would be a disaster for Big Pharma - a federal agency setting discounted drug prices for senior citizens, the disabled and the poor. According to the Obama camp, it might save $30 billion (£14.9 billion) for the nation's taxpayers, a huge bite out of the industry's earnings - and it would not end there.

If Medicare patients were able to secure supplies of Lipitor, the bestselling Pfizer anti-cholesterol drug, at half-price, legions of middle-class and middle-aged taxpaying Americans would ask themselves why they were paying double.

The argument in favour of free market pricing in medicines would be shredded on the rack of fairness and a host of employee benefit organisations would combine forces and demand similar discounts. The Obama cheap drugs plan would open a crack in the foundations of Big Pharma's tower of cash and quickly bring it tumbling down.

It will happen, it is just a question of when. Monopsony power has already taken root in the healthcare markets of most OECD countries.

You can see faith undermined in the share prices of the drug giants: in the UK, AstraZeneca has lost a third of its value since October 2006, while GSK has shrunk by a quarter. Over the same period, Pfizer has tumbled by 38percent and since December Merck has shrunk by 40percent.

In vain, the drug giants argue that without their US profits, the research that brings new medicines to market would not be possible. It is true that scientific research follows the money.

A big new drug is reckoned to cost $800 million in research and development and Europe has been losing its pharmaceutical edge to US labs, which generated two thirds of the new drugs launched in the world over the past five years.

The problem is that the pipeline is thin and the blockbusters are not emerging. This industry needs a new business model and, in the absence of self-generated ideas, someone in the White House might soon impose one.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Conde Nast: Life After Corporate Death

Life After Corporate Death
by JoAnn Greco Jul 10 2008

What you always suspected is in fact true: It doesn't pay to be a whistleblower. Just ask Sherron Watkins.

If Sherron Watkins, the famed Enron whistleblower, could do it all over again, she says she probably wouldn't have written that fateful memo to Ken Lay in August 2001 raising "suspicions of accounting improprieties." Nor would she have subsequently pushed for an internal investigation at the energy trading company, or later testified before Congress about her experiences there.

"I should have just left the company when I noticed things were wrong," says the 48-year-old Watkins today. "I'd be happily employed elsewhere."

Despite all the praise and publicity she received, including being named one of Time magazine's People of the Year in 2002 (along with fellow whistleblowers at Worldcom and the F.B.I.) and the recipient of countless awards, Watkins says her actions at Enron irreparably derailed her corporate career and even made it hard to get jobs in academia.

"I'd be in discussions with Rice or Wharton about becoming a visiting professor and there'd be an initial excitement; then down the road in the hiring process, someone would ask, 'Can't we get this skill set somewhere else?' " she recounts. "There was a fear factor, a sense that I couldn't be trusted."

Such stories are not uncommon among whistleblowers, even those who have become as celebrated as Watkins. Many have a hard time finding work, and most report suffering depression at some point, according to Dylan Blaylock, a spokesperson for the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit advocacy group for government and corporate accountability that's contacted by about 400 whistleblowers each year.

Whistleblowing is a "life-changing event that exacts a heavy toll on most, even the famous," says Blaylock. "Their peers don't want to associate with them and they become outcasts." Forced in many cases to leave their chosen fields, whistleblowers often flounder before crafting new careers.

Jeffrey Wigand, the cigarette company researcher whose exposure of industry practices famously helped bring down Big Tobacco in the 1990s, and who was portrayed by Russell Crowe in the movie The Insider, says he felt completely isolated after coming forward. By "refusing to be a bystander," he says he hoped to set an example. Instead, the 65-year-old now says, "I was left hanging in the breeze. I was radioactive. No one wanted anything to do with me."

He eventually found fulfillment teaching high school science and Japanese, but at a fraction of his former salary. These days he runs a nonprofit group called Smoke-Free Kids, which he largely funds himself from his consulting and appearance fees. The organization helps governments develop campaigns aimed at dissuading teens from lighting up. "I'm dedicated to derailing the industry's future revenue stream," Wigand says.

Wigand says he realizes most whistleblowers aren't as lucky as him in finding their way to gainful and fulfilling employment. "Sheer determination kept me from winding up in the trash can," Wigand observes. "For me, these years have been a path of reinvention."

Like Wigand, Peter Rost has found new ways to cause trouble for his old adversaries. As a $600,000-a-year vice president of marketing at pharma giant Pfizer in the early 2000s, Rost didn't shy away from alerting higher-ups to deceptive marketing involving a human growth hormone the company was selling. "They reacted very negatively and immediately started to isolate me," he recalls. "I knew what was coming." Feeling he had nothing to lose, he went public, was fired, and eventually brought a suit against the company.

"I knew, of course, that I'd never work in my industry again," Rost says. "But I thought it'd be easy to get a different kind of job in another area, maybe working for the government or a think tank." Instead, the 49-year-old learned that it "doesn't matter where you are, people keep their distance." Rost's employers took every opportunity to "bad-mouth" him, he says, adding that "only the newspapers applaud whistleblowers."

Rost eventually managed to take advantage of his fame by landing a column writing about drug-company marketing for Brandweek, and later at the Huffington Post. Rost, who trained as a physician in his native Sweden, eventually started a blog that acts as a vehicle for other pharmaceutical insiders with tales to tell to come forward. "There's more than one way to expose the crooks," says Rost. "It's not like I'm out to change the world anymore—I'm just trying to keep these guys in their place." But he's not exactly earning his Pfizer-level salary.

Unlike Rost, Enron's Watkins still struggles to redefine herself seven years after first coming forward. "I'd like to be busier," she concedes. "I'd like to be doing more training on corporate governance issues."

And she'd rather be known for something other than her role in bringing down Enron. "I get tired of rehashing my version of 'Stairway to Heaven' for the thousandth time," she says. And the sense that she can't be trusted prevails. "I can be hired as a consultant to give advice and such," she observes, "but I find that nothing much is shared with me."

Watkins cautions other potential whistleblowers about "glamorizing" the experience. "The book deal, the lecture circuit—that stuff happens once in a blue moon," Watkins says.

"I never counsel anyone to be a truth-teller," she adds. "It rarely works. If our system is so broken that we continue to rely on a few people, then something much larger is wrong."

[Please note that I didn't approve my quotes - they contain certain errors.]

Monday, July 07, 2008


American Academy of Pediatrics hijacked by Big Pharma

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is poised to issue recommendations for "wider cholesterol screening for children and more aggressive use ofcholesterol-lowering drugs starting as early as the age of 8 in hopes of preventing adult heart problems."

This is a highly controversial recommendation that smacks of pharmaceuticalcompany influence.

Indeed this recommendation overturns the AAP position-asreported in 2002, by The Washington Post: "The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) worries that the FDA's Februaryapproval of Merck's Mevacor (lovastatin) -- for children with a disorderthat gives them very high blood cholesterol -- could fuel more statin use when there is still little long-term safety and efficacy data in children, said John Moore, a pediatric cardiologist at Philadelphia's M.C. Hahnemann Medical Center and chairman of the AAP's cardiology section. There's also no consensus on how best to treat high cholesterol in youngsters, he said."See:

Neither reporters of the Associated Press or The New York Times questioned what scientific evidence supports the use of statins in children who do nothave heart disease. Cholesterol-lowering drugs were first introduced in 1987 (Mevacor), and are currently the most prescribed drugs in the U.S.

So, why has there been no dramatic improvement in U.S. mortality rates?

Why are more Americans becoming obese, diabetic--and dying of heart attacks compared to the rest of the world? Statins have been proven effective ONLY in patients with a prior history ofheart attacks-not in those deemed to be "at risk" because of high cholesterol.

To gain insight one must turn to physicians who are not on the payroll ofdrug manufacturers. Doctors, such as John Abramson, MD, author of Overdosed America (2004), points out that in clinical trials that included healthy but high-risk people without heart disease, statins were shown to be of no benefit.

For example, for women of any age who do not have heart disease or diabetes, and for men older than 69--who do not have heart disease or diabetes-there was no benefit from ingesting statins. For men aged 30-69 years who are at high risk of developing heart disease statins show a modest benefit: Out of 50 high-risk men taking a statin every day for five years, only one avoids a "cardiac event." In other words, of every 50 men who stay on statins for five years, 49 risk an adverse drug reaction with no benefit. [1]

Is it good medicine to expose children to risks of harm in adults are questioned? What is the overall effect on children's health of taking a drug? Warnings and side effects listed on the drugs' label: Lipitor:

Given the potential risks of harm from statins-including cognitive impairment, liver damage, and muscle pain, weakness, rigidity, shouldn't we seek alternative ways to reduce the risk of heart disease? Life-style changes, healthy eating, no smoking, and exercise are PROVEN EFFECTIVE against cardiovascular disease-and they pose NO risk of any sort.

Why, then, does the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend a dubious course of treatment with drugs instead?

One clue may be found in list of donors who include McDonald-whose fast-food has contributed mightily to US children's obesity and cholesterolepidemic-and pharmaceutical companies that market statins, such as, AstraZeneca (Crestor), Sanofi-Aventis (Zocor), Merck (Mevacor, Vytorin).

Neither the AP nor the Times informed readers about AAP's financial ties to companies with vested interests in the recommendation. The Times quotes Jatinder Bhatia, a member of the academy's nutrition committee who is a professor and chief of neonatology at the Medical Collegeof Georgia in Augusta.

He stated: "We are in an epidemic. The risk of giving statins at a lower age is less than the benefit you're going to get out of it." Times readers are not informed that Dr. Bhtia has extensive pharmaceuticalties as a consultant, speaker, and sits on several company advisory boards-and these may just influence his bald, unsubstantiated statements.


Another AAP committee member, Dr. Stephen Daniels, is quoted stating: "the new advice is based on mounting evidence showing that damage leading to heart disease, the nation's leading killer, begins early in life." AP reporter, Lindsey Tanner--but not NYT reporter, Tara Parker Pope -- informed readers that he has worked as a consultant to Abbott Laboratories and Merck& Co.

The 2008 AAP cholesterol recommendations are a crass example of how financial conflicts of interest can influence treatment recommendations by American professional medical associations. Reference: Wright JM and Abramson J. Are lipid-lowering guidelines evidence-based?

THE LANCET Vol 369 January 20, 2007 169.

Written by:
Vera Hassner Sharav

One click could change your life.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ever seen this sign in your doctor's office?

Then, perhaps you should print out and give him a copy?


Department of Justice drowning in pharma whistleblower cases.

More than 900 cases alleging that government contractors and drugmakers have defrauded taxpayers out of billions of dollars are languishing in a backlog that has built up over the past decade because the Justice Department cannot keep pace with the surge in charges brought by whistle-blowers, according to lawyers involved in the disputes. the Washington Post reports.

According to the Post, more than 500 of the cases involve the health care and pharmaceutical industries, as well as Medicare and Medicaid."Whistle-blowers are the key to the secrets locked in closets throughout the federal bureaucracy and government contractors," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). "These patriotic Americans stick their necks out, against all odds, to help the federal government pursue fraud and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars that would otherwise be lost."

"Even if no new cases are filed, it might take 10 years for the Department of Justice to clear its desk. Cases in the backlog represent a lot of money being left on the table," said Patrick Burns, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, which advocates for Justice to receive more funding to support cases by whistle-blowers and their attorneys.

Among the largest false-claims cases to date are a $650 million settlement earlier this year by drugmaker Merck in connection with an alleged failure to repay Medicaid rebates and a $515 million deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb to cover illegal drug pricing and marketing.

Help from Justice greatly enhances the chances that a complicated fraud scheme can be unraveled, lawyers say. And department statistics show that cases Justice turns away win paltry, if any, financial recoveries.


Hat tip: Pharmagossip

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Healthcare in the US 2008: Woman dies on hospital floor. No one gives a shit for an hour.

That included a doctor and two hospital security guards at Kings County Hospital in New York. And all the other patients just watched.

Ostrich CEOs: Only 24 percent of Pharma CEOs said that rising expectations will affect how they do business.

"What came out of this survey is that the life sciences industry is one that's in the middle of a big transition, but what's interesting is that CEOs are saying that the journey has just begun," said Michael E. Svinte, vice president of global pharmaceutical and life sciences at IBM. "They are so bombarded with change that they are struggling to keep up with it."

One odd fact of note is that while 62 percent of life science CEOs said they view rising expectations of corporate responsibility as a positive trend, only 24 percent of respondents said that those rising expectations will affect how they do business.

In the study, IBM questions whether this is because they already have programs in place to be more responsible with the environment and helping fight disease in impoverished nations, or whether they just don't have the strategies in place.

Source: PharmaExec

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Bloggers lay foundation for Vytorin lawsuit?

Scherlings-got-Plowed today writes how the first case reciting Sen. Grassley's theory of the irrelevance, from a legal point of view, of the blinded/unblinded ENHANCE data-sets -- has been filed.

The case is a consumer fraud case, filed June 13, 2008,by a health-care plan in Minnesota captioned Electrical Workers 242 Health and Welfare Fund, et al. v. Merck & Co., Inc, et al.,(Case No. 2:08-cv-03025-DMC, Complaint filed June 13, 2008, US Dist. Ct. NJ).

So where did Senator Grassley originally get this idea that the data didn't have to be unblinded?

We don't know for sure, but it looks as if PharmaGossip and yours truly during his writing for BrandweekNRX may have been first with this concept:

Read Prominent cardiologist: Schering-Plough could have known the result of Vytorin trial before unblinding data and New evidence indicates Schering-Plough insiders knew the Vytorin trial was "a bust" on March 13, 2007 from January 30 on BrandweekNRX.