SOURCE: The Washington Post – September 18, 2007
For the next 4 to 5 weeks, I am going to put together an educational primer for people interested in the Movie SiCKO, a political documentary film about pharmaceutical companies and of Food and Drug Administration by Michael Moore, scheduled for release in the United States on June 29, 2007. What is interesting is that Mr. Moore isn’t bringing up anything new….pharmaceutical and health insurance companies have been behaving like this for years. In any case, by reading this blog the next few weeks, I hope that you will educate yourself about several concepts before seeing the movie.
The concept: “Prescriber Profiling”
The players: Pharmaceutical Companies, American Medical Association (AMA), data mining companies.
How it works:The American Medical Association license access to it’s AMA Physician Masterfile, a database containing names, birth dates, educational background, specialties and addresses for more than 800,000 doctors to data-mining companies. The data mining companies, known as health information organizations (HIOs), then links this individual physician data to their demographic data and their prescription record. They then sell this linked database to sell them to pharmaceutical companies.
The pharmaceutical industry then employs approximately one sales representative for every 5 office-based physicians. A representative can quickly access a breakdown of pharmaceuticals prescribed by any physician on a handheld computer, enabling that representative to deliver a tailored marketing pitch to physicians selected for their current prescribing habits. Within weeks, the sales representative can monitor each physician’s response to the pitch—as well as to inducements, such as meals, gifts, and drug samples—and can make repeated visits to achieve sales goals. They can also identify physicians who prescribe a competitors’ drug and target them with campaigns touting their own products. Salespeople chart the changes in a doctor’s prescribing patterns to see whether their visits and offers of free meals and gifts are having the desired effect.
Critics claim that Prescriber Profiling biases the doctor-patient relationship, and it’s driving up costs. The pharmaceutical industry defends the practice as a way of better educating physicians about NEW drugs. Critics reply that this type of drug marketing serves mainly to influence physicians to prescribe more expensive NEW medicines, not necessarily to provide the best treatment.
After complaints from some members, the AMA last year began allowing doctors to “opt out” and shield their individual prescribing information from salespeople, although drug companies can still get it. So far, 7,476 doctors have opted out, AMA officials said. Some critics, however, contend that the AMA’s opt-out is not well publicized or tough enough, noting that doctors must renew it every three years. Furthermore critics claim that the AMA is reluctant to change it’s behavior because of it’s $44.5 million in revenue from the sale of database products (in 2005)—16% of the AMA’s total revenue for that year. They stress that patient names are encrypted early in the process and cannot be accessed, even by the data-mining companies.
Doctors, Legislators Resist Drugmakers’ Prying Eyes By Christopher Lee. Washington Post, Tuesday, May 22, 2007; Page A01.
Prescriber Profiling: Time to Call It Quits. David Grande. Annals of Internal Medicine. 15 May 2007. Volume 146 Issue 10. Pages 751-752.
Don’t be fooled by the weak stories of the pro-gun groups are insensitively pushing the day after the Virginia Tech shootings. The pro-gun advocates, such as Larry Pratt, state: “The shootings at Virginia Tech highlight the need to allow weapons on campus and at businesses because gun carriers will protect themselves and other students by shooting the perpetrators of gun violence.”
Pro-gun argument #1: As evidence for their claim pro-gun advocates states that a killer was stopped at the Appalachian School of Law when two students were able to go off campus to their vehicles and get their guns which they used to subdue the killer.
Cold hard truth #1: In the Appalachian School of Law incident, the killer stopped shooting because he ran out of ammo, not because he was shot by other gun toting students. Also the students that finally did subdue the killer were trained off-duty policemen who grabbed not only their guns, but bulletproof vests and handcuffs from their cars.
Pro-gun argument #2: Another argument the pro gun advocates are pushing is “All the school shootings that have ended abruptly in the last ten years were stopped because a law-abiding citizen — a potential victim — had a gun.”
Cold hard truth #2: Let’s review the cold hard facts (as stated by David Hemenway Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center):
1. Moses Lake [Washington], a 14-year-old honors student, opens fire in algebra class. He stopped when he was tackled by a teacher.
2. West Paducah, Ky., a 14-year-old kills three students and wounds five others at a prayer group. He drops the pistol when he’s approached by a principal and another student. No gun involved with the principal or the other student.
3. The 1999 Columbine High School killers took their own lives with the guns they’d used to kill 25 others, hours before a SWAT team stormed the building.
Hemenway said statistics show that in general, firearms don’t mix well with colleges, known for combustible elements like heavy drinking and romantic complications. “People get drunk, people get angry, they’re going to use their guns.” He concluds that “We do know that where there’s more guns, there’s lots more death. There’s more homicides, more suicides, more gun death.”
Pro-gun argument #3: What about examples where allowing guns on campus seems to work? “Isn’t it interesting that Utah and Oregon are the only two states that allows faculty to carry guns on campus,” Pratt said in his statement, “[and] you haven’t read about any school or university shootings in Utah or Oregon?”
Cold hard truth #3: School shootings are rare occurrences to begin with, thus, the probability of seeing an event in these states is naturally reduced. Second the population of Utah and Oregon are relatively low, so the probability of seeing an event in these states is naturally low (less people in a state, less chance an event will occur). Another rebuttal, just because an event has not occurred in the past does not guarantee it will not happen in the future. One final rebuttal to pro-gun argument #3: Massachusetts, has strict gun control laws and like Utah and Oregon there are no known school shootings.
Pro-gun argument #4: The shootings at Virginia Tech highlights the need to allow weapons on campus and at businesses because gun carriers will protect themselves and other students by shooting the perpetrators of gun violence.
Cold hard truth #4: The probability of innocent students getting caught in the crossfire of the killer and the armed untrained student may actually increase fatalities. Simply put, the more flying bullets (regardless of who pulled the trigger) the higher the probability of someone getting hit. In conclusion, when you boil the arguments down the pro-gun advocates are saying the answer to gun violence is more guns….the cold hard truth is that if noone had guns, there would be no gun fatalities!
The following chart displays a comparison of price percentage changes for the five day time period from April 11 to April 17, 2007. The VT shootings occurred on April 16th. Please click to enlarge.
Please note that the blue line is Smith & Wesson gun manufacture, the red line is Sturm, Ruger & Company gun manufacture, the yellow line is the S&P500 index.
The following chart displays a comparison of price percentage changes for the approximately seven year time period from Aug 2006 to April 17, 2007. Please click to enlarge.
In the short term (1.5 days after the VT shootings) gun manufactures experienced a decreasing trend. Over the long run, Smith & Wesson, the gun company, has fared extremely well in the stock market with an 1254.34% increase. The stock of Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.the only other publicly listed U.S. gun manufacturer, has more closely mirrored the ups and downs of the market. However, it too ended this time period with an overall 33.03% increase. Interestingly, I could not find the stock information for gun manufactures during the The Columbine High School massacre which occurred on April 20 1999. Anyone have this information?