|Selected news articles which highlight important policy issues.||
News: Weekly Archives
News for the week of 04-12-2006
Comparison of Schizophrenia Drugs Often Favors Firm Funding Study
This article raises the question of whether or not drug trials sponsored by pharmaceutical companies are trustworthy. Some researchers and industry critics, like Marcia Angell, worry that these trials are more about marketing than real science. However, these worries are, for the most part, probably overblown—primarily because, in order to enter the market at all, drugs must first pass strict FDA scrutiny and prove that they are reasonably safe and effective.
Marketing—as much as it irks some doctors—is an inescapable part of modern medicine because treatment for many diseases is heavily influenced by human variation—including genetics, environment, and even diet. Advertising and industry sponsored trials convey valuable information about treatments to doctors and patients that help guide the treatment process. This information is particularly necessary in the case of psychiatric treatment, where diseases like schizophrenia and severe depression are notoriously difficult to treat. Studies by pharmaceutical companies that compare rival products for these diseases—even taking into account subtle and not so subtle biases—expand treatment options and improve our understanding of patient variation. The Post notes that
Drug makers defend their studies, and [psychiatrist John Davis] emphasized that the drugs do help patients. But doctors, he said, cannot afford to take the results at face value. Sara Corya, medical director for neuroscience at Eli Lilly, a company Davis singled out for praise for the quality of its studies, said that conflicting results do not cancel each other out, and that they help clinicians understand the strengths of different drugs. Corya and Davis noted that Lilly has strict rules to prevent author-shopping.
Insel's point is certainly well taken: better information about clinical efficacy should be the bottom line all studies aim at. But government sponsored studies are just as likely to be driven by subtle biases (like touting cheaper generics for Medicare and Medicaid programs) as industry studies.
Finding better ways of predicting individual responses through validated biomarkers—personalized medicine—would make clinical trials more transparent and objective, but the science behind biomarkers is still in its infancy. Until then, we will have to muddle along with the best tools we have, even though they can be maddeningly imprecise.
Most Seniors Enrolled Say Drug Benefit Saves Money
After reporting nothing but negative reactions to the Medicare drug benefit for a number of months, the media seems to be moderately surprised that seniors who've signed up for it said that they are saving money and that "the paperwork [to join] was easy to complete."
Millions of senior citizens have not signed up for and do not know much about Medicare's new prescription drug benefit, but among those who have enrolled, threequarters said the paperwork was easy to complete and nearly twothirds said the program saved them money, the latest Washington PostABC News poll shows.
Part of the challenge facing the administration is that the media coverage—and partisan sniping by the Democrats—has been so relentlessly negative. This seems to be changing as seniors gain familiarity with the program. Although the program undoubtedly has its shortcomings during its early implementation, its principles—choice, competition, and extra help for impoverished seniors—are principles that should be extended to the entire Medicare program. That prospect, more than anything, is what has critics worried.
Patients asked to sign vow: No frivolous suits
Doctors are mad as hell about medical malpractice suits and aren't going to take it anymore. Or at least some of them aren't—and they're turning to contract law to try and stem the tide of tort in ways the courts have not.
Sixteen doctors at a women's health clinic in the northwest suburbs have begun using an aggressive new tactic to fend off malpractice suits. Patients at four WomanCare offices are being asked to sign a contract promising not to file "frivolous" malpractice suits.
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