Trump’s FDA pick, medical supply waste, and more

March 16, 2017

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The White House announced Scott Gottlieb as Trump’s nomination for the head of the Food and Drug Administration last Friday, continuing the pattern of agency picks with strong industry ties. As an advisor to numerous pharmaceutical and biotech companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and New Enterprise Associates, Gottlieb has the dubious honor of being “the most interest-conflicted commissioner in American history, by far” if confirmed, said Harvard Professor Daniel Carpenter, quoted in The New York Times.

In the first in a series on health care waste, ProPublica investigates “medical surplus”—the perfectly good supplies hospitals throw away to the tune of millions of dollars each year. Unopened medical supplies are often thrown away to meet infection control guidelines, but some of these costs are avoidable. A group of surgeons at UCSF lowered their medical supply costs by 6.5% when they were shown the direct costs of procedures and offered a bonus for reducing costs. Other initiatives, such as Partners for World Health, collect usable medical supplies and donate them to low-resource hospitals overseas, solving two problems at once.

California patient advocates want physicians who are placed on probation by the state medical board to notify their patients of their probationary status, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Currently these physicians are not required to do so. A bill in the state legislature would change that, adding a notification requirement to the board’s authority. Carmen Balber, of Consumer Watchdog, a proponent of the bill, says “We require restaurants to post their grades from the public health department on their window. It’s that transparency we think is necessary when it comes to our food, but somehow we don’t have that for our doctors.”

Workplace wellness programs, which are intended to incentivize healthy behavior for employees, have been criticized for punishing employees rather than advancing their health. Now, House Republicans have introduced a bill that would allow employers to collect private genetic data from workers as part of a wellness program and impose financial penalties on those who do not participate, The Washington Post reports. Opponents of the bill worry that this would let employers discriminate against employees based on their genetic data.

Shannon Brownlee, MSc, Lown senior vice president, in a blog pays tribute to John Michael Nardo, MD, formerly of Emory University’s psychiatry department, a champion in calling out “the corruption of medical science by the drug and device industries… and the failure of his medical specialty to protect patients from the hype of the psychiatric drug market.” Brownlee remembers “the brilliant, kind and sometimes funny voice” of, the blog Nardo started during his retirement. He died last month at age 77.



Don’t miss the Lown Institute Conference, Beyond the Bottom Line: Defending the Human Connection in Health Care, taking place in Boston, MA on May 5-7. The second day of the conference will feature a panel of presenters discussing the different forms of corruption that cause harm to patients every day, including Ralph Weiss, an attorney and patient who was severely injured by off-label use of a device.

Join the Right Care Alliance in marching for science on Earth Day, April 22, 2017. RCA members in Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, St. Paul, and Charlottesville are marching because science is the foundation of effective health care. Patients deserve to have treatments backed by robust evidence. To get involved, contact




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