Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fake Medical Journals

Like many other physicians, I get free medical journals. Not as many as I used to get, but still more than I have time to read. Every now and then, I get one that I've never heard of, and I wonder why I am suddenly getting it. Most of the time, I toss them without a second thought. Strangely, I never seem to receive another copy of those once-appearing journals. Maybe now I know the reason why.

It turns out that pharmaceutical companies have been coming up with their own fake medical journals (via Slashdot):
This time Elsevier Australia went the whole hog, giving Merck an entire publication which resembled an academic journal, although in fact it only contained reprinted articles, or summaries, of other articles. In issue 2, for example, nine of the 29 articles concerned Vioxx, and a dozen of the remainder were about another Merck drug, Fosamax. All of these articles presented positive conclusions. Some were bizarre: such as a review article containing just two references.
Things have deteriorated since. It turns out that Elsevier put out six such journals, sponsored by industry. The Elsevier chief executive, Michael Hansen, has now admitted that they were made to look like journals, and lacked proper disclosure. "This was an unacceptable practice and we regret that it took place," he said.
At least drug companies have stopped giving out free pens, notepads and other trinkets. Hopefully I'll never again have to see a sight as embarrassing as when I saw a physician carrying 8 bags loaded with drug company freebies at a meeting a few years ago. (Yes, she was Asian and female and probably shares the same gene that causes my mom to hoard free bananas from the hotel breakfast buffet when on vacation, but it's still mortifying.) Anyways, anything that decreases drug company influence (and the need for a shame transplant) is good to me.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Potentially Critical Hole

From the Los Angeles Times: Hospitals swamped amid flu fears
At Loma Linda University Medical Center near San Bernardino, emergency room workers have set up a tent in the parking lot to handle a crush of similar patients. In Chicago, ER visits at the city's biggest children's hospital are double normal levels, setting records at the 121-year-old institution.

So far, few of the anxious patients have had more than runny noses. But the widening outbreak of swine flu, also known as H1N1 flu, is exposing a potentially critical hole in the nation's defenses.

Across the country, emergency care facilities are straining at the seams even though the outbreak is relatively small and the federal government has launched a mammoth disease-control effort -- dispatching antiviral drugs to states, attempting to contain the limited number of cases and beginning to develop a vaccine against it.

"It is a major Achilles' heel in our state of readiness," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. "If we get a situation that is really out of hand with large numbers of people affected, I fear that our hospital and healthcare facilities simply won't have the materials or even the staffing to respond," he said.
I can't help but wonder what this situation would look like if patients had a personal primary care doctor they could go to or call or e-mail, instead of going to the ER.

Hey, you know that impending health care collapse that they've been talking about for years? Maybe there's some connection with that and the shortage of primary care doctors. Ya think?