From the Science blog, ScienceInsider:
A long-running feud between pharmaceutical companies and the German institute that evaluates the effectiveness of medical treatments could cost the institute director his job. Although the post is supposed to be apolitical, members of Germany’s new coalition government have called for Peter Sawicki, founding director of the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (known by its German acronym IQWiG, pronounced ICK-vig), to be replaced with someone who is friendlier to the pharmaceutical industry. The institute’s board of directors are expected to decide on 20 January whether Sawicki, a clinical researcher and diabetes expert, will be replaced when his contract runs out later this year.
Sawicki’s supporters say the move would endanger the institute’s reputation for impartial and rigorous science, and earlier this month a petition signed by 600 doctors and clinical researchers called on the health minister and the board to keep Sawicki on. Gerd Antes, director of the German Cochrane Centre in Freiburg, a not-for-profit organization that analyzes health care effects, says that replacing Sawicki would significantly undermine IQWiG and its work. Antes views the anti-Sawicki push as 'part of the political game to soften and to weaken rigorous procedures for new drugs and medical devices in Germany.'
And it turns out that the American-based pharmaceutical industry has jumped right in.
Big pharma’s attacks have even come from outside Germany. In March 2009, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America petitioned the Obama Administration to put Germany on a trade and intellectual property 'priority watch list' chiefly because of IQWiG’s influence on the German drug market. The petition complained that the institute has 'inadequately taken into account the value of innovative pharmaceuticals,' among other complaints. The Obama Administration declined to put Germany on its watch list.
Parenthetically, "innovation" seems to be a favorite term that those with vested interests in selling products or services use to describe those products, sometimes in the absence of any data that shows them to be superior to the alternatives in terms of important clinical outcomes, that is, outcomes that patients may care about. "Innovative" was also how complex financial products which contributed to the global economic meltdown were described by those who stood to make money selling, or sometimes simultaneously short-selling them, - but maybe that's guilt by association.
I hope the Germans are able to preserve their stake in honest, comparisons of tests and treatments that are not influenced by those with vested interests in selling those tests and treatments.