October 2010 Archives

October 24, 2010

Doctors With Questionable Records Hired By Drug Companies

ProPublica, an independent news organization, has been investigating the connection between physicians and pharmaceutical companies, and how pharmaceutical company payments influence physician prescription practices, including the prescription of dangerous drugs such as Avandia, Levaquin and Meridia.

This in-depth report reveals that hundreds of doctors received payments from drug companies who had been accused of professional misconduct, disciplined by state boards or lacked credentials as researchers or specialists. As stated by a researcher "Without question, the public should care...Why would you want your doctor learning from a bad doctor, someone who hasn't displayed good judgment in the past?"

Based on their research ProPublica published a database of doctors who have taken money from seven different drug companies in the past two years. The database features over 17,000 doctors - many of whom are paid substantial sums of money to act as speakers for drug companies. However, only seven drug companies have publicly reported payments and as such, represent only a small fraction of doctors who speak for pharmaceutical companies in the United States. In fact, this number could be as large as 100,000.

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October 18, 2010

Can Parents Sue For A Vaccine's Design Defect?

Last week the United States Supreme Court heard argument concerning whether parents of a girl who became sick shortly after being vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis can sue the vaccine's manufacturer. The parents allege a design defect. Nearly 5,000 potential lawsuits may result if the court allows the parents to sue, asserting a link between autism and the vaccine.

At issue - whether Congress intended to preempt state lawsuits when it enacted the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which created a separate court and compensation scheme for those injured by vaccines.

Side effects from taking prescribed medications and vaccines can be serious.

Here, the family's six-month-old daughter developed a seizure disorder and mental disabilities shortly after receiving a dose of Wyeth's (now part of Pfizer) vaccine. The vaccine court denied their claim, citing a lack of evidence proving the vaccine caused the seizures. However, the vaccine court process does not allow discovery so whether the link existed was not fully explored. In state court, the family sued on the grounds that the vaccine was defectively designed, and that safer alternatives exists, but that Wyeth failed to market those alternatives.

Several key issues are raised, including the extent injuries caused by vaccines are "unavoidable." The outcome of this case may have a significant impact. Some fear that pharmaceutical firms will stop making vaccines due to the cost of defending design defect cases. However, without the threat of design-defect cases, manufacturers may lack the incentive to produce safer alternatives, placing profits over safety.

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October 11, 2010

Congress Considers National Concussion Legislation

Recent reports have highlighted the growing concern that student athletes are being pushed too quickly to return to the game after receiving a concussion. Concussions - or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) - result from a blunt trauma to the head. Commonly occurring after car accidents or other types of injury accidents, the harm to the brain is the same. Those who suffer TBIs experience dizziness, loss of concentration, short-term memory lapses, and even speech and cognitive delays.

In order to address the concern that those students who suffer TBIs are being forced to reenter the game too quickly, New Mexico, along with several other states have laws which require athletes to be removed from play or practice if a concussion is suspected.

Congress has now begun holding hearings to determine whether a federal concussion law is warranted.

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