Francis Collins, the new Director of the National Institutes of Health said on C-Span that he is shocked by the apparent conflicts of interest between Big Pharma and scientists. He was talking about scientific studies regarding pharmaceuticals.
We do not see the representatives of Big Pharma much anymore, but when one of them does show up, I will do what I have done since the early 1980s. I refuse to take any paper they want to give me and tell them, “I will not read anything. What I want from you is to answer three questions. WHAT DOES THIS DO? WHAT ARE THE DANGERS and WHY IS IT BETTER THAN THE OTHER GUY’S?
Some younger argue and hold up the paper, “It’s all here?” The older guys don’t bother. They know that it is at least 50% a popularity game. If I like them, I will listen longer.
In 1983, when I was the manager of a pharmacy in Pittsburg, California, it was 100% a popularity game for Merck. She was 30-something, gorgeous and small. For me, she was the equivalent of fried Twinkies at a bikers’ rally. Her energy seeped from her pores. Men are attracted by energy. You single women, more cheerleader WORKS.
This Merck girl was the only Big Pharma Detail Person allowed in the pharmacy. She knew right where to go. The stool, beside the sink, at the far end of the pharmacy, counter was her web. She could not be seen from the front. My ashtray was there. Food was usually abundant. The coffeepot was pushed back under the shelves.
I always smoked a cigarette, sipped stale coffee and listened intently to her “detail”. Never more than five minutes. I refused to take any study she was waving around. I was in love with an idea that included her naked. The testosterone surged and my head was definitely in the game.
This darling girl (why are they always 10 years younger?) would always smoke her cigarette and make my pharmacy her hideout for a half hour, forty-five minutes.
Finally, she put me on the expense account and took me to lunch. It was on a day off. We met at a restaurant on Yganico Valley Road in Walnut Creek. The lunch was long. We drank wine. The crescent booth was rich red and black leather. The lights were dim. The music soft, low. She suggested Hennessy after we ate. She extended her hand and held mine for a few seconds. Her eyes were wet and I was lost. I really fell in love………AGAIN.
“You are a married man,” she said, “I can’t.” She let go of my hand.
“I shouldn’t,” I said, and it was over. Her visits after that were five minutes. She never again sat on the stool. She continued to try to peddle Merck’s studies. I refused to take them. Ah life, it has offered so many tastes that I was allowed to chew but not swallow.
All of that was meant to entertain you before I report about ghost-written papers that are signed by NIH scientists as the authors when they have been written by writers employed by Big Pharma.
You and I have suspected this for a long time. How can one study on Cozaar tell us that Avapro is inferior and a study the next week tells us how bad Cozaar is. You notice how the detail person will always lead with a prominent paragraph criticizing the others guy’s drug?
Direct to Consumer Advertising is marginalizing you, my friend. We are getting farther and farther out of the loop. That must change, but it is up to you. I have other windmills. Put down the beer, turn off the game, go to the Internet. There are politicians championing the end of DTC ads. Ask yourself, “Is it worth three phone calls to my Representative and Senators to get this stopped?” Direct to Consumer advertising is the engine that is running our profession straight to the dump. The voices of pharmacists have to carry weight with the legislators.
Anyway, you can see the NIH Chief on C-Span’s NEWSMAKERS show this Sunday (12-27) at 10:00 AM or 6:00 PM ET. With the anything-to-help Big Pharma Bush years behind us, there is a “Proposed Rule” that would require disclosure of financial connections between medical firms and NIH funded scientists. The rule would forbid “ghostwritten” studies WRITTEN BY DRUG FIRMS but attributed to researchers. Pathetic that this went on for decades. Why hasn’t the NIH busted this up a long time ago? You can answer that one.
The NIH Director, Francis Gibson, said he was SHOCKED by some reported conflicts. The years 2000 thru 2008 almost put us under. “The Have Mores” prospered while you guys were held hostage by the PBMs.
Now, who was the smart one? I didn’t know that the studies contained bullshit. I refused to accept them because I SUSPECTED that they contained bullshit.