Monday 29 March 2010

What Policy Exchange Didn't Mention

As any anti-tobacco pharma shill will tell you, it's only those big bad tobacco companies who are corrupt. Isn't it?

Pfizer to pay $142M for drug fraud

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has been ordered to pay $142 million US in damages for fraudulently marketing gabapentin, an anti-seizure drug marketed under the name Neurontin.

Data revealed in a string of U.S. lawsuits indicates the drug was promoted by the drug company as a treatment for for pain, migraines and bipolar disorder — even though it wasn't effective in treating these conditions and was actually toxic in certain cases, according to the Therapautics Initiative, an independent drug research group at the University of British Columbia.

The trials forced the company to release all of its studies on the drug, including the ones it kept hidden.
The ones it kept hidden, you say? Interesting.

Because, you see, while ASH will point continually to big tobacco bias and suppression of harm from passive smoking, they are very coy about telling you that the tobacco industry hasn't been able to hide anything at all since 1998. The, ahem, unelected World Health Organisation even has a document advising on how to search their exposed files.

Strangely enough, the pharma-funded (and, did I mention, unelected?) WHO is much quieter in pointing out wrong-doing by the pharmaceutical industry.

Still. Perhaps I'm making too much of Pfizer's potentially health-damaging fraud. After all, it's just a one off.

Err ...

Pfizer agrees record fraud fine

US drugmaker Pfizer has agreed to pay $2.3bn (£1.4bn) in the largest healthcare fraud settlement in the history of the Department of Justice.

It comes after the firm was found to have illegally promoted four drugs for uses which had not been approved by medical regulators.
Do you know what? I reckon, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, that this Pfizer may very well be the same Pfizer who market a smoking cessation drug called Champix (Chantix in the US), otherwise known by its clinical name of Varenicline.

If you're alert this Monday morning, you may remember that Policy Exchange's Henry Featherstone had quite a lot to say about that particular drug in his execrable nonsense earlier this month.

Such a hypothesis may explain why, at times, the report resembled an elaborate advert for smoking cessation drug Varenicline.

Varenicline is the most cost-effective treatment option in the NHS Stop Smoking Service. Studies consistently demonstrate it to be superior to any other therapy, but it is only used in 20% of cases. Varenicline should be offered as first line drug treatment for all patients wishing to quit smoking
On page 9, it even commands its own sub-heading and almost the entire page is taken up with boasts about its efficacy, culminating in the recommendation:

The NHS Stop Smoking Service should offer varenicline as first line drug treatment for all patients wishing to quit smoking.
PE is amazed that it is not prescribed more often, stating.

[...] the [NHS] only prescribes varenicline in 20% of cases, since it is often confined to patients who have failed with NRT. There is no good reason why all patients should not be offered it
Well, actually, there is.

Varenicline is more readily known as Champix or Chantix and makers Pfizer have been slapped with the strongest possible warning in the US due to its habit of inspiring people to kill themselves.
Henry didn't tell you that. He also didn't tell you that he was deeply involved with ASH, and that ASH are deeply involved with Pfizer.

What's more, he didn't even consider it necessary to inform you, and the rest of the world, that PCTs are paid for pushing a drug which has been ruled as a danger in the US, as I mentioned elsewhere back in June with reference to the Warwickshire PCT.

GPs and Pharmacies are reimbursed for service delivery (inflation still to be applied for 09-10):

£10.50 for each client setting a quit date
£40 for each client still quit at 4-week follow-up
£10.50 for each client not quit at 4-week follow-up. No additional payment for those not followed up at 4 weeks.
Pharmacies only - £3 per supply of NRT

Contact 1: Plan strategy for quitting, including assessment for drug therapy including carbon monoxide test, access to nicotine replacement therapy, Zyban® or Champix®

Contact 2: Possible quit date
Ensure access to NRT, Zyban® or Champix®. Carbon monoxide test
And that Pfizer are heavily involved in the process.

Joint working with Pfizer around targeting of clinics/drop-ins

Joint working with Pfizer to develop more effective recruitment campaigns in N&B, also targeting health professionals to refer more and more effectively.
One has to admire Henry's gumption in defending his heart-ruling-head poppycock, but the fact remains that he is, effectively, shilling for a company which has been proven to have been fraudulent on two separate occasions in the US in promoting dangerous drugs, as well as having the panacea Henry was advocating being awarded a big black health warning by the FDA.

I wonder if Henry will someday tell us which organisation paid for his quite laughable economic report.

Probably not. But I reckon we could hazard a guess.


Private Widdle said...

It should be very simple to refute any arguments put forward by the medical wing of the Righteous as follows:

When the medical profession ceases to be the third or fourth biggest cause of death* in the developed world, then they can start offering me advice on how to live my life. Until then they can shut the fuck up.

*Depending on whose figures you use. For instance, 102,000 deaths per annum can be attributed to adverse drug reactions in the US alone.

'Kin 'ell. Word verification = "diopyba". Whatever it is, I'm not taking it.

rsw37 said...

A very rare occasion, I disagree with a point you have made. I think the ruling against pfizer for promoting the drugs that hadn't been approved by the FDA was a crock of shit.
Pfizer hadn't said anything untruthful and the case wasn't about making false claims. Pfizer had to pay 2.3bil because they said something true, but the government hadn't approved this truth yet.
The FDA is inefficient and often ineffective, and this leads to plenty of unnecessary deaths. If there is a drug available that can help someone consumers should be allowed to use it at their own risk (in terms of both safety and effectiveness). It is typical nanny state bullshit that assumes unless the (ever-benevolent and not at all influenced by private interests) government has assured the drugs are safe and effective, then we will all blindly buy unsafe ineffective drugs from evil drug companies. There are private alternatives that can work and work better.
And in the mean time, lets not punish companies unless they have said something false.

Apologies if that got a bit rant-y

ali said...

"but the fact remains that he is, effectively, shilling for a company which has been proven to have been fraudulent on two separate occasions in the US in promoting dangerous drugs"

Way, way more than two occasions Dick, just google 'Pfizer lawsuit' and you'll find a load of different drugs that they've been sued for in the US.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Fair enough rsw37, and very well argued. :-)

If that is the case, I take it Pfizer will be vehemently defending the e-cig industry against what is looking like being a ban on their product for much the same overweening regulation you talk of.

Nah, didn't think so.

I very much understand your take on it, and would entirely agree if it weren't morals-of-a-chimp Pfizer we were talking about.

Having said that, the FDA are pretty wanky too, so in an ideal world, they'd BOTH be charged. ;-)

rsw37 said...

Oh yes, don't get me wrong, for the most part I agree pfizer are a bunch of wankers with few if any morals. I just don't think they were in the wrong in that case.
Also, I don't tend to get worked up when companies do greedy dickish things because I expect companies to be greedy and dickish at least in general. Whereas, the govt pretends to have higher standards and should be held to them. If the govt bans something because a vested interest pressured them I blame the govt for doing it not the interest for pressuring them. But that's just me.