Painkiller overdose deaths top those from heroin and cocaine

Almost everything I know about chronic pain I learned while working in hospice palliative care, where pain management was one of the most important components in easing the end-of-life suffering of our patients.  But even before then, one April morning in 1983, I listened to my father’s oncologist tell our family:

 We are reluctant to give him morphine for his pain because it’s addictive.”   

My Dad, who had been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, died nine hours after that pronouncement. But at least he wasn’t an addict when he died.  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

Bad doctors earning good money from Big Pharma

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit news agency that produces investigative journalism in the public interest – and this year, it became the first online newsroom to win the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. When they start digging, they find something interesting. Lately, ProPublica has been investigating Big Pharma marketing,  particularly the growing practice of recruiting, training and paying doctors to give presentations to other docs about specific drugs.

They’re part of the pharmaceutical industry’s white-coat sales force, doctors paid to promote brand name prescription drugs to their peers — and if they’re convincing enough, to get more physicians to prescribe them.   Continue reading