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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, June 18, 2007

Neurontin fine funds program on drug industry influence

A Boston health educator is taking a page from the antismoking playbook.

Using money from a $430 million Pfizer Inc. settlement of illegal marketing charges, the MGH Institute of Health Professions is launching a program today to teach health care providers about drug industry influence. Just as tobacco company settlement dollars funded stop-smoking campaigns, a total of $21 million and 26 grants were earmarked nationwide to bring information about pharmaceutical marketing to prescribers and consumers.

ladd100.bmp Elissa Ladd (left), clinical assistant professor at the affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital, won $399,400 to develop a documentary called "PERx: Prescribing Evidence-Based Therapies" and a companion website. Both are funded through fines paid by the drug giant Pfizer in 2004 when its Warner-Lambert subsidiary pleaded guilty to promoting unapproved uses for the anti-seizure drug Neurontin.

"As a practicing nurse practitioner, I was struck with the fact that pharmaceutical promotional activity was ubiquitous in our world, both as providers and consumers," Ladd said in an e-mail interview. "I felt that this promotional activity was driving the appetite in our culture for medications."

The documentary, produced by filmmaker and former pharmaceutical sales rep Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau, includes interviews with Dr. Jerry Avorn of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dr. David Blumenthal of Mass. General, Susan M. Reverby of Wellesley College and Kenneth Kaitin of the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development.

While the materials were crafted as continuing medical education, the website and film are available to the public, Ladd said.

"The important outcome of this project is that prescribers of all health care professions develop an appreciation that the overuse and sometimes unnecessary prescription of expensive brand-name medications can negatively impact our overburdened health care system," she said. "Ultimately it is our patients who will suffer from the undue burden that these costs are generating."

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 06:46 AM
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