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"It was like I had become a psychiatric call boy."
September 16, 2010 5:49 AM   Subscribe

The Secret Lives of Big Pharma's 'Thought Leaders' An article in the Chronicle details the love affair between Big Pharma and the academic doctors anointed as "Key Opinion Leaders"--arguing it's not about the money. There's been some push back at Harvard, after a recent embarrassing episode.
posted by availablelight (19 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
More on the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, and what disclosure looks like now.
posted by availablelight at 6:08 AM on September 16, 2010


He is the world's most prominent advocate of diagnosing bipolar disorder in even the youngest children and of using antipsychotic medicines to treat the disease, but much of his work has been underwritten by drug makers for whom he privately consults. ... An inquiry by Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, revealed last year that Dr. Biederman earned at least $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007...

$200,000+ a year to dope up your kid? I'll do it for half that and throw in a Nintendo DS.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:30 AM on September 16, 2010


Biederman: "To move in the ranks from one rank, for example, at Harvard, there is instructor, from instructor you move to assistant professor, from assistant professor you move to associate professor, from associate professor you move to full professor."

Lawyer: "Full professor?"

Biederman: "Mm-hmm."

Lawyer: "What rank are you?"

Biederman: "Full professor."

Lawyer: "What's after that?"

Biederman: "God."


I wonder if Dr. Biederman has ever seen the movie Malice? You know the scene I'm talking about. Alec Baldwin at his finest.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:31 AM on September 16, 2010


Universities could easily clean up the problem, simply by banning or capping industry payments to faculty members, but that is unlikely to happen. Not just because academic physicians would object, but also because many high-level university administrators have lucrative corporate relationships of their own. (For instance, the president of the University of Michigan sits on the Board of Directors of Johnson & Johnson, while the president of Brown University sat on the boards of Pfizer and Goldman Sachs.) As universities have come to look more like businesses, competing for funding and prestige in a consumer marketplace, industry relationships have become a lucrative perk of many university jobs.

Most academic presidents are glorified full-time fundraisers, and this has been so for some time. And the consequences of a doctor adjusting research to get a potentially harmful drug through trials are probably a lot more devastating than some rich, old white guy getting a paycheck from sitting in a boardroom. But it would be good to see full disclosure at all levels of the University food chain.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:44 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Harvard's Committee on Social Studies in its forthcoming 50th anniversary celebrations will pay homage to [Marty Peretz]... ... Stephen Walt comments on Peretz's repeated screeds against Muslims and asks:
Does Harvard University really want to have an undergraduate research fund named after someone who would espouse such hateful views? Would all those people who contributed money and who will presumably show up for the event have done so if Peretz made a similarly grotesque statement about blacks or Catholics?

Balloon Juice comments:

I’m guessing [Peretz] gave them money. There are no bigger whores in the world.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:55 AM on September 16, 2010


When I did work for the pharma industry similar to the work I do now, you could get an hour alone and off the record with a thought leader for between USD 500 and USD 1000. To talk about, oh you know, whatever. They seemed prone to speculation regarding the likely future actions of pharma/bio/devices companies and even the Agency. Astonishing how often they were correct.
posted by digitalprimate at 7:03 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ordinarily, I don't read the comments below articles, but on the Chronicle piece, they are excellent.
posted by Trochanter at 7:06 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I did work for the pharma industry similar to the work I do now, you could get an hour alone and off the record with a thought leader for between USD 500 and USD 1000. To talk about, oh you know, whatever.

Did that price include the room?
posted by availablelight at 7:33 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


It was usually at their house (many live in NJ, especially the trial designers) or over the phone.

Besides, only sales reps pay for rooms ;)
posted by digitalprimate at 7:39 AM on September 16, 2010


I'd accuse the article of being all heat and no light, but… there isn't any heat there, either. The damning indictment of KOLs boils down to:

1. An actor gave a presentation 40 years ago, before any current industry safeguards were in place, presented no false information (just bafflegab), was entertaining, and his entertaining presentation was then called "entertaining". Gosh.
2. People had dinner in a hot basement once.
3. A guy had to help a doctor find a Walgreen's once.
4. A full professor at Harvard is egotistical.
5. Doctors have to disclose how much they're given for studies by companies (and I think that disclosing the amount is the only new thing there: "this research was funded by an unrestricted grant from [company]" has been standard language for as long as I can remember, at least here in Canada).
6. A former KOL whose "industry relationships have gone sour" has a poor opinion of KOLs.
7. The author's brother, a complete failure as a KOL, had a bad day once.

Seriously? There's nothing here. Less than nothing.
posted by Shepherd at 8:24 AM on September 16, 2010


Shepherd:

That the doctors (who are influencing other doctors about which drugs will be prescribed for the nation) are being treated like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman really is actually something, although not news. I found the theory that it's the feeling of 'gee, I'm an important Opinion Leader' more than the money that makes these guys get a chubby is interesting.
posted by kevinsp8 at 9:44 AM on September 16, 2010


From the first link:
These days an ordinary doctor can no more expect to understand the intricacies of specialized medical research than the driveway mechanic who tinkered with his Volkswagen in 1962 can expect to fully understand the complex, computerized automobiles on the road today. Those who have tried to sit through a medical lecture in a field other than their own will secretly admit that they could have been fooled by Dr. Fox as well.
I'm pretty sure if I went to a lecture where a purported mathematician were spouting gibberish, I would know it, although most people would agree that mathematics is an intricate and highly specialized field of research. I think the problem is that medicine is a mish-mash of science and folk wisdom and uses a lot of squishy terminology, and this is what makes it easy to scam them with a "lecture".
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:20 AM on September 16, 2010


"Astonishing how often they were correct."

Umm... so... did you cash out?
posted by stratastar at 10:25 AM on September 16, 2010


I just want to be on record as saying that I am available as a thought leader, and I will soon be a doctor (of the old-school PhD variety).
posted by oddman at 10:55 AM on September 16, 2010


I just want to be on record as saying that I am available as a thought leader, and I will soon be a doctor (of the old-school PhD variety).

And as the joke goes, there are only two kinds of people you absolutely must call doctor: new PhDs, and dentists.
posted by availablelight at 11:33 AM on September 16, 2010


I'm a doctor, just one that, as my grandmother once said, can't do you any good.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:39 AM on September 16, 2010


Umm... so... did you cash out?

No, I figured not violating certain laws passed in 1996 were perhaps more important. And I was getting a little too old and too entrenched to have plausible denial.

/melodrama.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:01 PM on September 16, 2010




Harvard's Committee on Social Studies in its forthcoming 50th anniversary celebrations will pay homage to [Marty Peretz]...

Peretz, Thomas, and the Middle East double standard
posted by homunculus at 11:02 AM on September 22, 2010


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