News Week in Review, October 14, 2013

An industry watchdog group raises concerns about pay-for-play, the Supreme Court considers medical devices, one company claims its trade secrets were sent overseas and a critique of off-label promotion is, well, criticized.

“In fourteen-hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”…certainly one of the more effective pneumonic devices from our younger days. So it is that today we celebrate the journey that would lead Mr. Columbus to “discover” the Americas. Unless of course you’re Canadian, in which case…Happy Thanksgiving! There is much to celebrate in North America today, but before you dig into the turkey and stuffing or take advantage of the Columbus Day sales at the local mattress emporium (nothing says “woo hoo, America was discovered!” like a new mattress), we set sail with this week’s News Week in Review.

The discovery of emails about meetings between government regulators and industry executives has raised concerns about the relationship between the two groups. The emails reveal that since 2002, pharmaceutical companies paid their way into the IMMPACT (an organization dedicated to improving clinical trials for new pain treatments) meeting, where they were able to discuss clinical trial procedures with regulators. The industry watchdog group, Public Citizen, says this raises concerns of a pay-for-play arrangement, in which drug companies could buy access to regulators, other health officials and academics. One of the founders of IMMPACT acknowledged that the email messages could appear problematic on the surface, but no one has complained about pharmaceutical companies paying for representatives to attend the meetings.

The U.S. Supreme Court could be exploring a case of a patient’s ability to sue a device maker under state laws when a problem with an FDA-approved device occurs. The case involves an Arizona man who has sued Medtronic over a pain medication pump which he claims left him paralyzed. At the time the man was using the pump, the device was approved by the FDA. The device was eventually removed from the market following a warning from the FDA about Medtronic’s failure to disclose all the risks. The Court has turned to the Obama Administration for an opinion on the matter.

A semi-retired Harvard doctor is suggesting that the Massachusetts legislature define a modest meal as one comparable to what one would receive at a hospital cafeteria. The doctor testified before the Committee of Public Health about a bill that would set a standard for a modest meal. He lamented the repeal of the existing meal ban and lectured about the so-called evils of pharmaceutical marketing.

Three former Lilly employees may be forced to walk the plank after they were indicted for handing over company trade secrets to a Chinese pharmaceutical company. According to the indictment, two of the employees emailed information about nine early-stage research projects to a third employee, who was also employed by the Chinese drug company. Lilly claims the company has a value of $55 million.

Fresenius, the maker of Propofol, ceased shipments of an anesthetic drug to Morrison-Dickson for several months, after the wholesaler accidently sent 20 vials of the drug to a Missouri prison for use in lethal injections. Fresenius will sell the drug to U.S. wholesalers only under the condition that they not sell it to prisons or jails. When company officials originally tried to reclaim the drug from the prison, they were told that decision would have to come from the state’s director of corrections or the governor. The state has agreed to return the vials.

In a case of the old world borrowing an idea from the new world, the U.K.’s Home Office is considering U.S. style whistleblowers awards in fraud, corruption and bribery cases. Currently, the U.K offers limited legal protections for employees who blow the whistle and the move is seen as one way to incentivize them. Some are concerned that the financial rewards will lead to bogus claims and raise questions about the credibility of a whistleblower as a witness.

A rehabilitation physician is trying to take the wind out of the sails of critics of prescribing drugs off label. Ford Vox, a physician at the Shepherd Center, responded to a recent article in the Washington Post about the number of off-label prescriptions written for patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Vox poked holes in the article’s assertions that off-label prescribing is inherently suspect, and that CMS has a responsibility to police physicians engaged in the practice. He notes that while focusing on one specific physician and drug, the article does not mention that the particular use is backed by research from 2006.

And so we end our exploration of all things compliance for this week. Fall has definitely arrived and as you map your compliance training curriculum for 2014, keep in mind that PharmaCertify™ offers the custom and off-the-shelf training solutions you need to help your crew navigate today’s murky compliance waters.

Have a great week everyone!

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