Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Gentlemen, Start Your Foundations

The NY Times for Wednesday June 28th, 2006, reports on a Pogo ("we have met the enemy and he is us") angle I'd not been aware of. In "Charities Tied to Doctors Get Drug Industry Gifts" reporter Reed Abelson describes how easy it is to find examples of physicians in--in what? let's not say "bed"--with Big Pharma in a novel, oft-hidden manner. Tax-exempt charities owned and operated by the physicians.


I feel I should've been aware of this new-ish wrinkle on double-dipping, but I wasn't. Were you?
The first example cited is that of a cardiology group in Lombard, Illinois who brag, on their Foundation Website, that they give "patients access to medical advances before they come to market." Like Natrecor, a drug that's great fun to Google to see plaintiffs' lawyers duking it out with shills, and for which "Outpatient use of Natrecor around the country has fallen precipitously,"

What such sources often fail to mention, and what their leaders may fail to mention at scientific conferences, is that the non-profit they establish, for purposes of clinical trials investigation, is funded by the drug- and device-makers.

Many other examples follow. Both the Philadelphia US Attorney, Patrick Meehan (a wonderful figure to many upstanding Philadelphians), and the Inspector General's Office at HHS, seem to detect a whiff of something a bit off here, according to the article.

To me, what's most interesting is the Pogo Effect. The money is good, and those lured to this easy money rush quickly to defend their practices. "Strict internal controls" and assumption of integrity seem to be all it takes. These monies help fund fellowships, which of course specialists, receiving these funds, have come to expect. And lots else.

Oh, and the Illinois cardiology group "has been involved in major multi-site studies with some of the biggest names in research, including Mayo Clinic, Brigham & Woman's Hospital at Harvard Medical school, Cleveland Clinic, and Duke Clinical Research Institute."

So, gentlemen (and ladies--the cardiologist was a lady!), start your foundations. Decide if you think you're susceptible to bias. If you decide you're not, why, go right ahead--how could this tidy little, extra source of support ever bias little old irreproachable me? And look at the great company you'll keep, as you fall in with the Big Boys.

In this blog our Editor, Dr. Poses, has shown, time and again, how the Big Boys are interlocking directorates that include Big ... well, Big Everything. In another way, then, going after a few cardons in Lombard, Illinois feels like a cheap shot. What about the Big Guys. Irreproachable one and all.

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