Friday, May 6, 2011

Lub-dub, Lub-dub, Lub-dub...KA-CHING!

In a fascinating series of articles released yesterday, ProPublica details how a heretofore obscure medical organization, the Heart Rhythm Society, pulls drug and device company cash in hand over fist. You'll find the main article here, along with links to several companion pieces, my favorite being this devilishly fun interactive piece in which you can click on graphics of cardiologists sprinting to various industry-funded events and exhibits. Each time you click on a cardiologist, you get a list of the sugar daddy companies, along with details of how much was spent on what. It's more amusing than playing Angry Birds.

The bottom line is that nearly half of the $16 million in income received by the Heart Rhythm Society in 2010 was from companies producing heart devices and drugs. Not being a cardiologist, I can't judge how much the money has influenced the various treatment guidelines and CME programs the society has created. In written responses to ProPublica, the society's president and president-elect deny that there is any problem whatsoever:

"The society has sufficient measures in place to prevent undue influence from industry or introduction of industry bias into HRS-sponsored educational programs, research, scientific documents and policy initiatives."

I suggest you read all their responses to ProPublica's questions. There is an unmistakeable whiff of defensiveness and deception. There are certainly many questions that are answered circuitously or not answered at all.

Look, having undergone a cardiac procedure myself a year and a half ago, I'm all for cardiologists learning all they can and collaborating with industry when needed. But after reading ProPublica's allegations, along with the Heart Rhythm Society's flat-footed responses, I was left with the sense that there is more greed at work here than a sincere desire to improve the profession.


A Malcontented Idealist said...

Okay, okay. But I still miss those wonderful pens the drug company reps handed out.

Malagodi said...

"I was left with the sense that there is more greed at work here than a sincere desire to improve the profession."

Oh, they're not being sincere?

hari pacche said...

Guilty as charged

by Ash Amed FACC