Cardiac society gets half of its funding from stent industry

While recent lawsuits and research studies have raised questions about why some stent-happy cardiologists are implanting the tiny metal devices into the hearts of those who don’t need them, the group representing the doctors who implant those stents relies heavily on income from the very folks who make them. So say the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists over at ProPublica.

For example, the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) received 57% of its total revenues in 2009 from medical device and pharmaceutical makers, according to financial information on the group’s website.

Industry contributions to the society’s budget covered $4.7 million of the $8.2 million it received that year.

The group’s biggest funders are in fact the companies with the biggest share of the stent market: Cordis Corp. (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), Boston Scientific, Abbott Laboratories and Medtronic.

Researchers who study conflicts of interest in medicine say medical societies that receive a lot of industry support are susceptible to taking positions that either promote their sponsors’ products or downplay their risks. Continue reading

Johnson & Johnson recalls Extra-Stinky Tylenol

Years ago, I used to teach public relations courses called Reputation Management to corporate suits.  When I singled out companies that had somehow managed to weather bad press to emerge with reputations well intact, there was one at the top.

That company poster child was, hands down, Johnson & Johnson.

In fact, for many years the Forbes list of 100 Most Admired Companies featured J&J as their perennial list-topper. And the exemplary way the company had swiftly stick-handled its catastrophic Tylenol murders scandal in 1982 continues to be taught in PR, journalism and crisis communications classes.

But those heady days must seem far, far away now, with increasing reports of tainted J&J drug recalls. As Consumer Reports Health describes it, a nauseatingly bad smell to its products has been blamed for stinking up several different types of Tylenol, the antipsychotic drug Risperdal, HIV/AIDS drug Prezista, and two lots of the anti-epilepsy drug Topamax among many others. In fact, the agency reports that recalls like these have cost J&J almost $900 million in sales last year alone.   Continue reading

How did this heart drug get approved in the first place?

In case you believe that the medicine you’re taking has been adequately tested on real live patients before being legally approved, you might want to consider research published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine*. A heart drug called nesiritide that for the past 10 years has been given to hospitalized patients with acute heart failure has failed to show any improvement compared to placebo.

But the drug had somehow received FDA approval in 2001 for use on these patients – after initial non-approval. Continue reading

What we can learn about medicine from watching Grey’s Anatomy

When the popular TV hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy featured a story line about a patient diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL), Joyce Graff paid close attention. The Executive Director of the VHL Family Alliance watched as the surgeon onscreen discovers a large cyst on the patient’s pancreas, described as being in danger of rupturing”. Joyce described the scene:

“The TV surgeon removes a significant portion of the pancreas. But pancreatic cysts in VHL are almost never dangerous, and are not sufficient to warrant operating on the pancreas, which is the last organ you want to touch. Dr. Steven Libutti, one of the world’s experts in VHL in the pancreas, says he has NEVER seen a VHL associated pancreatic cyst in danger of rupturing, and described this scene as pure fiction.”

The potential inaccuracy of medical information presented on widely-watched hospital dramas (about 20 million viewers watch Grey’s Anatomy every week, for example) is a concern to Joyce – and should be to all of us.  But how much educational impact does a weekly visit to the fictional hospitals of Grey’s Anatomy or House or E.R. actually have on the average viewer?  And couldn’t we take advantage of our favourite TV docs to help raise awareness of serious real-life health issues? Continue reading

British surgeon threatened with lawsuit for daring to question ‘Boob Job’ cream

According to The Guardian, a prominent British plastic surgeon named Dr. Dalia Nield of The London Clinic has been threatened with a libel action by the manufacturer of a cosmetic cream because she publicly questioned whether it worked as the company claimed. Dr. Nield had also told a newspaper reporter: “The manufacturers are not giving us any information on tests they have carried out.” The company, Rodial Limited, claims that its £125 ($192 Cdn) Boob Job cream, if applied regularly, can increase a woman’s breast size by up to 8.4% within 56 days. According to the company’s website, here’s how Boob Job works:

“As your fat cells move around the body after eating, Boob Job ‘blocks’ the fat into the area where the product has been applied, so the bust and décolleté areas. You will see a gradual increase in cup size within 56 days as well as gaining an instant lifting and firming effect.”  Continue reading

Top 10 posts from The Ethical Nag for 2010

There has been no shortage of intriguing topics to write about over the past year. As I’ve said before, marketers are smart, and we consumers need to learn how to outsmart them. Part of that learning, of course, involves just becoming more savvy about how things work out there in the world of marketing. This year, a first for me: threatened legal action by the mega-law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom who took exception to seeing their client’s name mentioned here.Continue reading