Right Care Action Week is here, the downside to vaccine donations, and pharma creates another disease

October 20, 2016

In order to bring you more of the news you want to read, RightCare Weekly summarizes and interprets three important articles and provides headlines linking to the many other articles and editorials you’ll find interesting. As always, RightCare Weekly presents articles related to moving our healthcare system toward the right care for all patients.

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It’s Right Care Action Week! The theme is listening, the bedrock of good care, and more than 75 events are being held around the country. Lown Institute President Vikas Saini, MD, in an opinion piece in STAT, writes about the week and underscores the failures of our health care system. The clinician-patient relationship, he writes, “is becoming a commodified transaction rather than a collaboration.” Money drives behavior and decisions, leaving listening as an afterthought. Yet listening costs next to nothing, causes no harm, and can sometimes avoid the need for more costly drugs and devices. Saini writes, “To make a difference, we must first identify what matters most to patients, health care providers and communities.” Listening to communities in particular, he says, is essential to creating the political will for real improvement in health care. Thousands of individuals will be listening throughout the nation this week as they participate in RCAW activities. They’ll be listening at story slams and listening booths and to the responses generated from the ‘what worries you most’ queries. Watch for RCAW event updates in future issues of RightCare Weekly.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and when it comes to donations from pharmaceutical corporations, there’s also no such thing as free vaccines. This week, the global humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders rejected Pfizer’s offer of one million free pneumonia vaccines, instead urging the drug company to lower the price of the vaccine globally, Fortune reports. DWB Executive Director Jason Cone explains that despite the immediate value of the million vaccines, accepting donations threatens accessibility of the vaccine for developing countries in the long term. Donations often come with restrictions on what populations and regions can receive them, limiting the reach of vaccination campaigns. Donations also flood the market with a free product, making it impossible for new manufacturers to compete and preserving Pfizer’s near-monopoly on the vaccine. “By giving the pneumonia vaccine away for free, corporations can use this as justification for why prices remain high for others, including other humanitarian organizations and developing countries that also can’t afford the vaccine,” said Cone. Pfizer also gets a tax benefit from donations. If Pfizer wants to truly give humanitarian aid, they should do what DWB has repeatedly asked them to do, and lower the price of the pneumonia vaccine for all.

From restless leg syndrome, to male pattern baldness, esophageal reflux disease, erectile dysfunction, anxiety disorders and even halitosis, disease mongering by pharma is widespread, growing and extremely profitable. Sometimes companies create a drug for a condition that is mild for most people and then exaggerate the danger. Or they develop a drug for a serious condition that affects a small number of people and then market it to a much wider population. The latest case of disease mongering is overactive bladder, dubbed OAB, which last year rewarded drug makers with sales of nearly $3 billion from the more than 12 drugs claiming to treat it. An article in MedPageToday/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week highlights the clever ways industry creates conditions, disorders and diseases for which medications and treatments seem to be needed. Biased questions on their telephone surveys, exaggerated survey results, and industry-funded studies are all part of the pharma game, as are direct-to-consumer ads. Overactive bladder is not a life-threatening condition, and there are multiple reasons why a person might urinate often; however, the drugs used in its so-called treatment have serious risks. In reports to the FDA since 2013, there have been more than 12,000 adverse events from OAB drugs. These include delusions, kidney failure and hundreds of deaths. The FDA contends that the benefits of these drugs outweigh their risks when taken according to product labels, but many studies show that OAB drugs perform no better than placebos, according to the article. Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Center for Health Research, notes “these drugs have the potential for serious risk. So what’s the actual benefit? To weigh that against risks that can be serious, it’s pretty unimpressive.” We’ll go even further. Taking a drug for a condition that isn’t serious or can be treated in safer ways is dangerous.





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RightCare Weekly is made possible through the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.