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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Senators on Drugs

posted by on May 10 at 11:23 AM

Man, state Sen. Jeann Kohl-Welles probably wishes today’s front-page NYT article had hit during the legislative session.

As Slog readers know, I was keen on a bill Kohl-Welles was pushing this year that would have required drug companies to reveal—on a state database— the gifts they give healthcare providers. The intent was to let patients know that their doctor may not be making objective prescriptions and also to intimidate pharmaceutical companies out of this crass practice.

Crass and dangerous as it turns out.

The investigative piece by the NYT zoomed in on Minnesota, the only state that requires drug companies to do what Khol-Welles wanted them to do in Washington state. The information allowed the NYT to discover that the average number of prescriptions written for children patients from 2000 to 20005 by psychiatrists who received over $5000 from the drug maker was 223. Under $500? 67.

From the article:

A New York Times analysis of records in Minnesota, the only state that requires public reports of all drug company marketing payments to doctors, provides rare documentation of how financial relationships between doctors and drug makers correspond to the growing use of atypicals in children.

From 2000 to 2005, drug maker payments to Minnesota psychiatrists rose more than sixfold, to $1.6 million. During those same years, prescriptions of antipsychotics for children in Minnesota’s Medicaid program rose more than ninefold.

Those who took the most money from makers of atypicals tended to prescribe the drugs to children the most often, the data suggest. On average, Minnesota psychiatrists who received at least $5,000 from atypical makers from 2000 to 2005 appear to have written three times as many atypical prescriptions for children as psychiatrists who received less or no money.

The article also documents, in sad detail, the debilitating side effects that the drugs can have on youngsters. One young teen was prescribed Risperdal for an eating disorder by a psychiatrist who received more than $7,000 from Risperdal’s maker, Johnson & Johnson. The drug ended up wracking the teen with a nerve disorder.

The reason Sen. Khol-Welles should show up on the first day of session armed with this excellent article is this: During the debate, Khol-Welles’s Democratic Senate colleagues (never mind her GOP colleagues who seemed to me compromised by overwhelming donations from the pharmaceutical industry) said the bill took the wrong approach. Rather than focusing on gifts to doctors, they said, a better bill would ban advertising to the public.

The The NYT article makes it clear that gift disclosure is just as pressing. The Democrats should have passed Sen. Khol-Welles’s bill.

RSS icon Comments


Very good analysis.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 10, 2007 11:31 AM

"Rather than focusing on gifts to doctors, they said, a better bill would ban advertising to the public."

How about both?

Posted by F | May 10, 2007 11:32 AM

I said it before and I say it again... this sort of thing never gets enough attention. If you really think about it, it's much more important news than the terrorist jackoffs they caught in Jersey, but it probably won't even get a blurb in the crawl on CNN.

Posted by christopher | May 10, 2007 12:17 PM

This is a correlation-causation issue.

Wouldn't the guy who is already perscribing tons of prozac to kiddies be the one most likely to want prozac swag?

Wouldn't the guy who HATES prozac and never prescribes it be the one mostly to not want prozac swag and gifts?

I would way more likely want a Metro t-shirt as the transit man than the cle elem resident who hates buses and wants them to die. I am also more likely to ride the bus.

Just food for thought.

Posted by Transit Man | May 10, 2007 1:25 PM

Ban advertising to the public? That's the kind of paternalistic crap I guess we can expect from most legislators.

At least when I watch an ad, I can process it through my own bullshit filter. That's tougher to do with your doctor (or legislator for that matter), when you don't know where their payola is coming from.

Posted by Rx-N-Effect | May 10, 2007 1:42 PM

Dig it. Well said.

Posted by Josh Feit | May 10, 2007 1:59 PM

What are those doctors thinking? Are a few payouts and some swag worth the inevitable malpractice suits?

Posted by keshmeshi | May 10, 2007 3:10 PM

FYI: It's Kohl, not Khol.

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