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Consumer Reports magazine: June 2013

In 2003 Kim Witczak’s husband, Woody, took his own life. He’d been taking a prescription medicine whose side effect of suicidal thoughts wasn’t fully disclosed by the drug company. Since then, Witczak, a Minneapolis marketing consultant, has been advocating for drug safety, disclosure of drug trials, stronger oversight of medical devices, and curbs on direct-to-consumer drug ads. In February she organized a conference (co-sponsored by Consumers Union) with consumer advocates, academics, and journalists to tackle misleading marketing of drugs and medical devices, medical research that’s biased by industry ties, and more. To read more or get involved, go to Consumers Union’s SafePatientProject.org.
 
 

Drugmakers spent that amount on marketing their products in the nation’s capital in 2011. A new report by researchers at George Washington University on pharmaceutical gifts and advertising in Washington, D.C., considers whether the money influences doctors’ prescribing choices to the detriment of patients; drug reps appear to have treated some doctors to meals as often as once a week.

“The Department of Justice will not hesitate to pursue any person whose criminal conduct risks the safety of Americans who have done nothing more than eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”—Stuart F. Delery, Department of Justice, in a Feb. 21 press release on the indictment of four peanut-company officials charged with conspiring to defraud and mislead customers. An outbreak of salmonella in 2008 that sickened at least 714 people was traced to peanut butter from the Peanut Corporation of America.

Here’s a site you could explore for hours: Consumer.data.gov is a gateway to thousands of federal and state databases, as well as a slew of tools and apps. The goal is “to increase public access” to government data. Check bike-crash stats for North Carolina, find alternative-fuel stations across the country, or locate earthquake activity around the world. Developers are invited to create apps, produce mashups, and help make the data useful for everyone.


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