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

Foreign intrigue: when drug companies bribe doctors

Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug company (at least until their blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor truly loses its patent protection for real) has reached a legal agreement in principle to resolve a foreign bribery investigation. A final deal could be struck by the end of the month, according to an SEC filing reported on Pharmalot. Three months ago, Pfizer officials said they had “voluntarily” provided information about “potentially improper payments” made by unspecified Pfizer and its Wyeth subsidiaries in connection with sales activities “in countries other than the U.S.”

The other countries were not named.

The move, as described by Pharmalot, comes amid increased scrutiny by the U.S. government into the pharmaceutical industry and its interactions with foreign health care systems.

“In late 2009, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division warned drugmakers that there will be more criminal enforcement against interactions with foreign officials as they seek violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).”

And he apparently meant it.  Continue reading

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