Annual Meeting 2010

Dr. Alice Coombs Begins MMS Presidency

Posted in Annual Meeting 2010 on May 17th, 2010 by MMS – 1 Comment

Alice T. Coombs, M.D., became the 128th president of Massachusetts Medical Society over the weekend by delivering stirring remarks on her upbringing, the people in her life, and the imperative to combine bring humility, science and service to the calling of medicine.

She said, “We’re scientists. We love data, and there aren’t many people who love data more than I do. But we’re also servants. We do the right thing when we serve our patients, first and foremost. No other profession in the world combines these two imperatives: science and service, balanced together.

” We struggle when one side of the equation becomes too important at the expense of the other. When we’re too much the scientist, we lose our connection with that person we’re trying to help. When we’re too much the servant, we fail to use the rigor and knowledge that we trained for. When there’s a just balance … life works.”

Watch an excerpt of her remarks.

FDA Commissioner Says Pending Lawsuits Threaten Patient Safety

Posted in Annual Meeting 2010, Uncategorized on May 15th, 2010 by MMS – Comments Off on FDA Commissioner Says Pending Lawsuits Threaten Patient Safety

hamburg-FDAThe commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration told physicians in Boston today that two lawsuits challenging the regulatory authority of the FDA could jeopardize patient safety, and hinder innovation and medical progress.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, said that if the plaintiffs in the lawsuits prevail, many companies will be able to promote products as beneficial without the benefit of adequate evidence. She added that companies whose products are truly beneficial “would have trouble penetrating the confusion” in the marketplace.

The FDA’s only avenue to protect patients would be legal action after the products hit the market, where the agency would have to prove that product claims were false and misleading, she said.

Hamburg was speaking at the annual Shattuck Lecture, sponsored by the Massachusetts Medical Society and the New England Journal of Medicine.

One of the lawsuits she discussed challenges the FDA’s authority to review the validity of marketing claims by drug and device makers. The other, filed by two tobacco companies, is trying to overturn the agency’s authority to regulate tobacco products.

Hamburg said that if the FDA is prohibited from reviewing the marketing claims of tobacco products, the country will see a repeat of the “low-tar fiasco” of previous years, when some lower-tar cigarettes were successfully marketed as being healthier than regular cigarettes, “when there was never any evidence that it provided any medical advantage.”

“Be Bold, Be Creative, Be Visionary,” MMS President Tells Members

Posted in Annual Meeting 2010 on May 14th, 2010 by MMS – 1 Comment

_MG_2216_webMMS President Mario Motta, M.D., told the members of the Society that “we are surrounded by a world demanding that we change” in his State of the Society message this afternoon. Dr. Motta encouraged his colleagues to respond to change by being bold, creative, and visionary.

With medical progress and knowledge expanding exponentially, “no one person can know everything,” Dr. Motta observed. That makes cooperation and collaboration among physicians essential, yet physicians work in a system that “actively discourages” that kind of teamwork and coordination. The resulting disconnects lead to “chaos, stress, frustration, and burnout,” Dr. Motta noted.

“We are the system,” Dr. Motta told his colleagues. “If we don’t change, the system doesn’t change.”
But he was quick to add that physicians’ experience with change imposed from the outside “doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence.” That’s why the physician community must lead the change, he said.

At the same time, Dr. Motta emphasized that everyone is responsible for helping restore order and sanity to the health care system – including insurers, the business community, government, patients, and hospitals.

Physician advocacy through the Medical Society, he concluded, gives physicians the best chance of “not just surviving in this new world, but thriving in it, and even enjoying it.”

Listen to his remarks (9:21)

MMS Ethics Forum: Partners’ Conflict of Interest Policy is an Evolving Process

Posted in Annual Meeting 2010, Ethics Forum, Pharmaceutical Industry on May 14th, 2010 by MMS – Comments Off on MMS Ethics Forum: Partners’ Conflict of Interest Policy is an Evolving Process

_MG_4418Calling relations between industry and academic medicine “essential to our mission of translating scientific advances into improved health care,” Eugene Braunwald, M.D., explained the latest conflict-of-interest (COI) policies at Partners Healthcare System at Thursday’s MMS Ethics Forum.

Dr. Braunwald is a world-renowned cardiologist, Harvard professor, and faculty dean for academic programs at Partners.

Here’s a summary of several Partners COI guidelines. Those who willfully violate them receive warnings and then face dismissal for further lapses, Dr. Braunwald said.

  • All gifts to Partners physicians are prohibited, including meals, unless the meals occur in the course of non-marketing business activities
  • Free drug samples will be distributed to patients through a centralized outlet. Physicians will not be permitted to keep drug samples received from industry reps
  • All visits by industry representatives must be preceded by a written invitation specifying the purpose and duration of the visit
  • Partners is developing a process to monitor financial interests held by physicians in companies that make products the physician prescribes or uses in clinical practice
  • In any industry-sponsored educational program or fellowship, there must be more than one sponsor, and no single sponsor can contribute more than 70 percent of the funding
  • All Partners faculty are barred from participating in industry-sponsored “speakers’ bureaus” and from “ghostwriting” for industry
  • “Institutional officials” at Partners (e.g., presidents, senior VPs, and department chairs) may not receive more than $5,000 a day for work with an outside board of directors that does business with Partners and they may have no equity stake in such companies.

Dr. Braunwald noted that these policies represent a “series of compromises” that were often “challenging to reach consensus on.”

Asked by the outgoing MMS President, Mario Motta, M.D., whether the tightened rules were hurting efforts to recruit physicians and researchers, Dr. Braunwald said, “Yes, but most all academic centers are changing their COI rules.” He did concede that he’s heard “some grouching” from Partners faculty about the changes.

MMS Members Comment

Listen to Dr. Braunwald’s lecture (1:16:31)

MMS President Calls on Physicians to be Flexible, Collegial, and Nimble

Posted in Annual Meeting 2010 on May 13th, 2010 by MMS – Comments Off on MMS President Calls on Physicians to be Flexible, Collegial, and Nimble

Calling this past year in health care “amazing,” MMS President Mario Motta, M.D., told the MMS House of Delegates this morning, “I’m proud of the role we were able to play on both the state and federal level.”

Dr. Motta praised Society members for their input. “Your feedback told us whether we were on the right track or needed to correct our approach,” he observed.

Giving the federal legislation a grade of B minus, Dr. Motta said it left some matters “unfinished,” most notably an SGR fix. “Without SGR reform, the viability of Medicare is threatened,” he said.

The MMS president called on everyone to get involved in a grassroots campaign to get lawmakers to pass a payment formula that is “fair, sustainable, and accurately represents the cost of running a practice.” He asked his colleagues to call Senator Scott Brown as part of a push to get Republican senators in New England to vote in favor of SGR reform.

Dr. Motta also praised MMS President-Elect Alice Coombs, M.D.’s work on the state payment reform commission. “The final report says almost everything Alice was arguing for…She got it done,” he said.

Regarding imminent legislative attempts to implement the commission’s recommendations, Dr. Motta said, “Our stance will not be, ‘no, not ever’.” But he was quick to add that “there are some for whom [global payment] will never be a good idea.”

“The status quo is not an option,” Dr. Motta concluded. “Change for its own sake is not the answer, either. We need to be flexible in our thinking, collegial in our approach, and nimble in our actions, as we protect the special nature of the patient-physician relationship.”

Listen to the speech here. (11:01)