Big Pharma, are you ready for your close-up?

Blood MedicineIt’s movie awards season, and that reminds us that filmmakers are at work on new projects that might snag an award or two next year. And ever since the film Love and Other Drugs turned Jake Gyllenhaal into a Viagra sales rep, and director Steven Soderbergh‘s film Contagion made a vaccine researcher into a hero, Big Pharma’s a hot theme in the movie biz.

For example, a recent Reuters report says that Kathleen Sharp‘s book Blood Medicine (formerly Blood Feud) has just been optioned by the film production company, New Regency. This book is the true story of Mark Duxbury, a Johnson & Johnson drug rep-turned-corporate whistleblower. Duxbury repped for J&J’s biotech division Ortho, and was one of its top salespeople for its anemia drug Procrit – until he was fired, allegedly for warning that the drug could actually be harmful.

Here’s why this real-life script has suspense thriller written all over it.  Continue reading

Whistleblowing is dangerous to your health

The Russell Crowe movie, The Insider, was an Academy Award-nominated film based on the true story of a corporate Big Tobacco whistleblower. Until he went public, Dr. Jeffrey Wigand had been Brown & Williamson’s $300,000-a-year research director, described by the Wall Street Journal as “the highest-ranking defector in the history of the tobacco industry”.

Dr. Wigand decided to go public by delivering a damning courtroom deposition against his employer – a move that eventually led to the tobacco industry’s $246 billion litigation settlement in 1998 to help pay for smoking-related health care bills in the U.S.

But it turns out that a conscientious employee like Dr. Wigand who blows the whistle on dangerous or illegal acts faces a significant personal health risk, too, according to research published in the BMJBritish Medical Journal.

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‘Extreme exam anxiety’ – disability or excuse?

I’m thinking of getting my PhD from the University of Manitoba. Apparently, Winnipeg’s U of M will waive normal requirements for a PhD for those students claiming to suffer from extreme exam anxiety. I’m pretty sure I may have that. And a U of M whistleblower has now been suspended for protesting the doctorate in mathematics awarded to a U of M student who:

  • lacked the academic requirements for such a degree
  • had failed a required Comprehensive Candidacy exam two times
  • was then informed that the requirement to pass the exam would be waived – all because of this extreme exam anxiety.

To save time and money, to avoid those Winnipeg winters, and to minimize my own extreme exam anxiety, perhaps the University of Manitoba could just drop my PhD credentials in the mail for me. Isn’t that what other no-class diploma mills do when they decide to throw academic requirements out the window?
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Two nurses fired for reporting doctor’s inappropriate actions

This has bizarre backwoods good ol’ boy written all over it, no offense to good ol’ boys: two American nurses, Vicki Galle and Anne Mitchell who, until they were fired in June, had been employed by the Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit, West Texas for over 20 years.  The two nurses not only lost their jobs at the small hospital, they are now facing criminal charges of misuse of official information, which, under the truly frightening Texas Penal Code,  is a third-degree felony with a penalty of 2-10 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. * see updates below

What evil did Vicki and Anne perpetrate to merit this fate?  On April 7th, 2009 they reported to the Texas Medical Board their concerns about Dr. Rolando Arafiles, one of three physicians on contract with the hospital. Arafiles, they claimed, was improperly encouraging patients to buy his own herbal “medicines”, among other concerns.

Arafiles in return filed a harassment complaint with the county sheriff’s department against the nurses. The subsequent criminal charges of misuse of official information claim that the nurses “sent patient files to the state medical board in an attempt to ‘harm, harass or annoy’ one of the hospital’s physicians”. The files included the medical record numbers of the patients affected, although no patient names were disclosed.     Continue reading

Drug Rep Confidential

Watch this revealing 4-minute interview with pharmaceutical company sales reps, courtesy of Pharmed Out, an “independent, publicly funded project that empowers physicians to identify and counter inappropriate pharmaceutical promotion practices”.  The voices have been distorted to protect the identities of the two drug reps chatting about what happens when they visit your doctor.

From rewarding heavy prescribers to off-label marketing (promoting a drug for conditions it has not been legally approved to safely treat), these two men offer an eye-opening yet disturbing take on ‘detailing‘ – what goes on behind closed doors.   Continue reading

How a British university sold out to a drug company

sheffield 1

A few years ago, Sheffield University in the U.K. offered over $250,000 to one of its senior medical professors if he would agree to stop criticizing the drug company that was giving research money to the university’s medical school.

For several years, bone metabolism specialist Dr. Aubrey Blumsohn had been complaining to his university about scientific misconduct around a contract between Sheffield and the U.S.-based drug company, Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals. Blumsohn claimed that the company had denied him access to his own key research data on the P&G drug Actonel, and then tried to ghostwrite his analysis of it for publication.   Continue reading