Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Product placement on steroids

UCSF's Robert Wachter has done a great public service in summarizing the recent case involving Charles Denham, a well known patient safety expert and advocate, and a company called CareFusion. His January 20 summary begins:

The scandal, which broke two weeks ago, involves a $40 million fine levied by the Department of Justice against a company called CareFusion. The company allegedly paid Denham more than $11 million in an effort to influence the deliberations of a “safe practices” committee of the National Quality Forum co-chaired by Denham. 

There has been a great deal of discussion about the case, and there will be a lot of lessons learned.  But one topic that has been glossed over a bit derives from this story:

Things got odder still. Zelig-like, Chuck kept popping up in extraordinary places. After Dennis Quaid’s twin newborns nearly died of a heparin overdose at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, I wondered whether Quaid would become a spokesperson for patient safety. The next thing I know, Quaid is holding a news conference, and standing beside him is Chuck Denham. And soon, a very slick video, Chasing Zero, was released and distributed gratis to hospitals everywhere. The producer: Chuck Denham.

CareFusion is listed at the start of the film as a sponsor, and there's nothing wrong with that.  But I've just had a chance to watch the video again.  In ways people did not apparently appreciate at the time--and have yet to recognize today--it employs an impressive use of product placements.  I'm going to put aside the extensive discussion of chlorhexidine-based cleanser for surgical cleansing (starting at minute 39:19 in the film.)  Let's focus instead on two other project placements.

The first is for the Pyxis drug administration machine, seen at minute 37:50.  Here's the image from the video:

The next one is for Alaris infusion pumps, starting a minute 38:29.  Here's the image from the video:

As an aside, medical people might be amused by the green sticker that has been placed on this machine, to hide the name Cardinal Health.  Cardinal spun off the Alaris brand to CareFusion in 2009, so why give a free commercial to the other company?  Here's how the pump looks on the CareFusion website:

Seeing that this video remains available for free to hospitals, has been widely distributed and has become a regular part of the continuing medical education program around the country, it's time to understand that, here too, Denham and CareFusion conspired to influence hospital purchasing patterns. There is much good in the film, but it's time to take it off the shelves of the nation's CME programs until these blatant product placements are removed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good find. This is good evidence that there probably was an undercurrent to Denham's 'good deeds' from way back. I am well aware that stories like this can be distorted when made public, but honestly, unless Dr. Denham can produce an awfully good explanation, the accumulation of evidence does seem to suggest a giant con. As others have commented on Wachter's blog, it is not so much Dr. Denham himself as it is the imperative to set pre-emptive rules as a result of this case.
A pertinent quote from Sonia Sotomayor's memoir, as she began her tenure on NYC's Campaign Finance Board in the '80's, formed to address corrupt campaign contributions:

"What appealed to me was the possibility of devising a structural solution to a long-entrenched problem simply by creating an appropriate set of rules. That's as elegant as ethics gets."