Category Archives: Ethics

04Jul/06

"Medicine is for the People, not for the Profits."

During my senior year, I was lucky to have a few job offers to evaluate. The top two were from Johnson & Johnson and Exxon. As part of my research I looked at how each company handled adversity. For me it was an easy choice when I compared J&J’s handling of the Tylenol situation vs. Exxon’s Valdez.  I was drawn by the impact I could make in people’s lives and by the industry’s reputation in general and J&J’s in particular.

But in recent years, our industry has gone though some tough times. We’ve have seen record FDA fines, product recalls and withdrawals as well as the erosion of consumer confidence.  In my opinion executives at some Life-Science companies lost focus on the patient and began to concentrate on profits for Wall Street.

It is in times like these that we must reach for our roots and reflect on the legacy left by our industry’s founders.

In the August 1952 Time magazine interview, George W. Merck said “Medicine is for people, not for profits.” He went on “…if we remembered that, the profits have never failed to appear. The better we remembered, the larger they have been.”

In 1943 General Robert Wood Johnson wrote: “We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services.” This Credo is still etched in stone at the J&J world Headquarters.
In 1899 Charles Pfizer said, “Our goal, has been and continues to be the same: to find a way to produce the highest-quality products and to perfect the most efficient way to accomplish this, in order to serve our customers. This company has built itself on its reputation and its dedication to these standards, and if we are to celebrate another 50 years, we must always be aware that quality is the keystone.”

In this post Sarbanes-Oxley era, I am heartened to see that our industry is once again putting patients first.

Let us remember to chase after the cures for human ailments, then and only then will fair profits follow.

16Jun/06

AMA Calls For Moratorium On Advertising Of Prescription Drugs And Devices

By Daniel R. Matlis

The American Medical Association’s new policy on Direct to Consumer Advertising includes imposing a temporary moratorium on newly approved drugs and guidelines for pharmaceutical companies to follow when preparing DTC advertising.

AMA President-elect Ronald M. Davis, MD said “A temporary moratorium on DTC advertising of prescribed drugs and medical devices will benefit both the patient and physician.” He added “Physicians will have the opportunity to become better educated on the pros and cons of prescription drug uses before prescribing them, and will be better able to determine when they are best suited for their patients’ medical needs.”

The AMA suggested the following guidelines for DTC ads:

  • provide objective information about drug benefits that reflect drug efficacy, as determined by clinical trials
  • show fair balance between the benefits and risks of the advertised drugs by providing comparable time or space and cognitive accessibility, and by presenting warnings, precautions and potential adverse reactions in a clear and understandable way without distraction of content
  • clearly indicate that the ad is for a prescription drug and refer patients to their physician for more information and appropriate treatment
  • target age-appropriate audiences
  • should receive pre-approval from the FDA

“The AMA will work with the pharmaceutical industry for universal acceptance of the guidelines so that physicians can help patients obtain appropriate medications” said Dr. Davis.

Let’s see how the FDA and PhRMA respond.

14Jun/06

Are Post-it Notes Security's Worst Enemy?

By Daniel R. Matlis

In his recent InformationWeek article entitled “Let The UBS Trial Be A Warning To You” Mitch Wagner covers the trial against a former UBS employee charged with hacking the company’s networks. The article also addresses some of the embarrassing failures in UBS’s security and disaster preparedness.

According to testimony from a UBS IT manager, some 40 systems administrators at the company shared the same ‘root’ password to login. There they had free rein to install software or make any changes they wished. It was not unusual for systems administrators to get up from their desks and wander off while still logged in as ‘root’.

It is a fact that companies often spend millions implementing the latest and greatest security technology. The rationale is that technology will keep us secure.

The reality is that the best security technology is not worth a dime if people find a way around it. People must me trained and reminded of proper security procedure. For example don’t share passwords, it’s like giving your ATM card and PIN to anyone who asks, delete default passwords, remember Oracle’s Scott/Tiger and most everyone else’s Admin/Admin.

But in my experience, Post-it® notes are security’s worst enemy.  I cannot tell you how many times I walk up to someone’s desk and stuck to the monitor is a Post-it® notes with a list of system names and their respective passwords.

The path to security begins with people. Let’s not confiscate all Post-it® notes in the company. Instead, let’s train our people on proper security procedures.

Post-it® is a trademark of 3M

10May/06

RFID on Prescription Drugs

By Daniel R. Matlis  

On the May 9th issue of Information Week, Mitch Wagner provides some simple and elegant solutions on his article entitled “A Simple Fix For RFID Privacy

In a previous article Levi Strauss proposal to use RFID tags on their Jeans was condemned by privacy advocates. He states “I’m not sure what the heck they’re worried about. I mean, how can you be concerned about privacy protection for information that’s already written on people’s butts?”

Although people may not be concerned about RFID tags in Levi’s Jeans, they ought to be concerned about RFID tags on prescription drugs.

The Food and drug administration (FDA) has issued a report recommending the widespread use of RFID technology throughout the pharmaceutical industry by 2007. The goal is to stem the tide of counterfeit drugs currently available though the internet.

RFID will play a key role in securing our nations drug supply. I can see a day were RFID tags will be the electronic equivalents of tamper proof seals, allowing consumers to rapidly identify counterfeit and fraudulent drugs.

However, there are significant privacy issues that must be addressed.

Would you want anyone with a rogue RFID reader finding out which prescription drugs you are taking?

I certainly would not.