We’ve gotta hand it to GSK for taking the high road on physician payments for as long as they did. In 2013, after paying billions in fines to the Chinese and US governments in payments scandals, GSK figured it would be a good PR move to enforce a blanket ban on any payments to HCPs. But you know how the saying goes, nice guys finish last. Other major drugmakers didn’t follow GSK’s lead, leaving the company at a competitive disadvantage. So they’re getting rid of the blanket ban and making it more like a Snuggie ban—you know, with some holes to let them move around more easily. The company will resume payments in some restricted situations, like global experts speaking about their products, but well-below 2013 payment levels.
You may have skipped class in college to recover from Tequila Tuesday, but the US’ elite medical students are skipping class so they can learn faster. That’s caused medical schools like Harvard’s to start doing away with lectures since students aren’t even attending those taught by Nobel laureates. In these curricula, students are instead taught with the “flipped classroom” model—essentially where students learn the material outside of class and focus on things like group activities in class. But students still must memorize so much content for the first exam in the medical licensing process that they’re turning to sources like YouTube to make sure they’re prepared. We guess we’re happy that med students are over-achievers, but it sucks that they’re spending so much money on school to not go. NYU apparently being the exception.
The first drug derived from marijuana has been approved for sale in the US. Under the brand name Epidiolex, the purified cannabidiol (CBD) substance has shown promise as a treatment for two rare forms of epilepsy. CBD is the compound in marijuana that researchers have identified as what gives the “Devil’s lettuce” its medicinal properties. This shouldn’t be confused with THC which is what gives Cheech & Chong (Warning: language and, obviously, drug use) material for their comedic properties. CBD oil has been touted as a treatment for severe epilepsy in the past few years but having an FDA-approved drug with consistent quality and dosage could give physicians more confidence in prescribing it. The approval also influences enforcement, forcing the US Drug Enforcement Agency to reschedule the drug since it now has an accepted medical use.
The FDA’s Compassionate Use program helps patients that seek access to medications still in the development pipeline. But legislation signed into law this week allows patients to completely bypass the regulatory agency should they so choose. The “Right to Try” bill gives patients access to investigational drugs with the permission of just their physician and the drug manufacturer. It also shields those drug companies from the legal risks involved. Critics, including the American Cancer Society, say the bill gives false hope to patients, and champion the current process of compassionate use and clinical trials. After all, the FDA approves 99% of compassionate use applications, and can even do approvals over the phone. When asked for comment, some formerly prominent musicians said “You gotta fight for your right… to paaaaaaaaarty.”
The UK is putting its money where its mouth is. “NHS England has announced a new initiative to help retain GPs in the shape of a £10 million ($13M USD) fund designed to capture those considering leaving general practice.” Why? Because market research conducted for the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) revealed that 39% of its members thought they are unlikely to be working in the profession in England in five years’ time. Whoa. England’s not alone. A 2015 study by the Mayo Clinic found a significant increase in US physician burnout and decrease in work-life balance. Want more? The WHO released a study that indicates “shortages can mount up to 9.9 million physicians, nurses and midwives globally by 2030.” Great. Looks like we’ll need a few more Dr. Beepers in the future. Kudos to England for trying.