Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli calls himself Main Street businessman; a “practical, rolled up CEO” who built two successful businesses.
Indeed, one of them, Galen Publishing, was actually located on W. Main Street. But Ciattarelli’s businesses had little to do with downtown Somerville and were not a small business. It was a medical publishing house worth millions.
Despite a charismatic personality and three terms in the New Jersey General Assembly, Ciattarelli struggled to gain recognition as he headed for his November clash with incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll earlier this summer found that 70% of registered voters in New Jersey said they didn’t know Ciattarelli enough to have an opinion on him and 17% conceded they didn’t. had never heard of him.
In his ads and on the stump, he highlighted his long-standing Jersey roots.
“Here’s Phil Murphy’s problem,” Ciattarelli said after winning the Republican primary in June. “He wasn’t brought up here, never went to school here, never owned a business here.
The nominee, however, didn’t say much about his own business, other than noting that he always met his payroll and hired other New Jersey residents, while repeatedly describing his efforts. in interviews as “main street businesses”.
What his company has done is produce continuing education materials for major universities – much of it funded by millions in grants from some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry, according to records.
Under a contract with Galen, the University of Tennessee has licensed and accredited continuing education materials produced as part of the “University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy Advanced Studies in Pharmacy.” According to files filed with the Tennessee General Assembly Tax Review Committee, Galen secured the funding using his contacts and partnerships in the pharmaceutical industry, leveraging his relationships with more than two dozen drug companies. .
“Galen Publishing is the only vendor in the country with the facilities, wealth of industry contacts, access to live seminars, and editorial expertise to provide the services the university would lend its support to. name to enter into this partnership, “school officials wrote in justifying the non-competitive contract to the Financial Review Committee.
It is not uncommon for continuing education credits mandated by many professional organizations to be taken out by companies. However, critics say relationships can present a conflict and can be little more than surreptitious marketing tools used by drug companies.
The university, which maintained editorial oversight and overall approval, received 8% of all grants obtained by Galen for the use of her name and accreditation on documents.
Between 2008 and 2017, when Ciattarelli sold the company, $ 13.2 million in grants were awarded for the program. The university kept $ 1.04 million and paid Galen just over $ 12.2 million, according to documents describing the contract. A Ciattarelli campaign spokeswoman said Galen has agreements with other universities that have been offered the option to put their name and stamp on similar publications.
“Jack and Galen were innovators in the field of continuing medical education,” Stami Williams said in a statement. “Jack created the notion of a continuing education journal that prestigious educational institutions could label as their own and use to raise their profile and increase communications with the affected medical community. He registered the trademark of these journals and then offered various educational establishments the possibility of putting their name and stamp on the publication.
Since Galen was the only entity to offer this service and owned the trademark with “Advanced Pharmacy Studies,” any contract to use that trademark had to be a sole source contract, she said.
Of the articles published, a number focused on pain management – some appeared to downplay the dangers of opioids.
In one, an author noted: “The abuse or diversion of pain relievers is a significant problem, particularly among adolescents and young adults. Worries about opioid dependence, addiction, or non-medical use often create barriers to effective pain management. But he continued, “The risk of opioid abuse is low in patients with chronic pain who do not have pre-existing substance use disorders.”
Other universities, including Johns Hopkins and Harvard, have done the same with continuing education journals in their respective fields, she said, with Galen producing the Johns Hopkins Advanced Studies in Medicine, Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute Advanced Studies in Ophthalmology and Harvard University Advanced Studies in Dentistry.
While they can be common, such arrangements represent an inherent bias, as pharmaceutical companies pay to educate professionals on topics they could benefit from, argued Adriane Fugh-Berman, professor of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown University.
“It’s not education. It’s advertising and it’s very well disguised, ”said Fugh-Berman, who runs PharmedOut, a group that oversees the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing efforts.
She said that doctors, nurses and pharmacists are generally required to undergo continuing education and estimated that there are hundreds of companies that offer programs, learning modules, seminars and other materials. continuing education, largely funded by pharmaceutical companies.
“Some focus on interviews and lectures and some on editing and some do both,” she said.
Despite promises of a “firewall” between marketing opportunities and education, however, she said there always seemed to be marketing messages.
“They’re often quite subtle and often you can’t tell what the marketing messages are,” she observed. Pharmaceutical companies are not straightforward enough to promote brand name drugs in such forums, but rather educate pharmacists or doctors that there is a need for some type of drug.
This provides the opportunity for a fertile field for a pharmaceutical company’s sales force, which can later call in to sell a drug for which continuing education material has argued for prescription.
“This is the raison d’être of continuing education,” she said.
The University of Tennessee would not answer specific questions about the arrangement with Galen.
“The university has maintained this contract for many years and has provided licensing and accreditation for continuing education material in the pharmaceutical industry. The contract was not renewed because the company was sold to a new company, ”said Peggy Reisser, spokesperson for the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center. The contract continues, she added, with another company.
Williams said the continuing education topics came from the University of Tennessee faculty and never from the drug makers. Galen, she said, then took the idea for a continuing education course, created a grant request with faculty input, and submitted it to pharmaceutical companies with interests in these areas.
“These companies would either agree to finance the continuing education grant or reject the grant application. If a grant was funded, the faculty at the university responsible for the continuing education program would then prepare the content for the training or for direct publication in the journal, ”she said. “The content never focused on a specific drug, but rather covered all relevant drugs.”
These articles were not written by pharmaceutical companies, but rather by pharmacists or physicians with relevant expertise in a given therapeutic area. The author had ultimate responsibility for his own work product, campaign officials noted, while adding that the program chair of the university’s College of Pharmacy had a responsibility to ensure that “the whole The program conforms to the university’s’ learning objectives and standards of academic excellence and complied with the Accreditation Council’s standards for pharmacy education.
Williams said that over the ten years the university has published more than 100 continuing education articles.
“Less than a handful have dealt with pain management and opioid issues, which are extremely important areas of study for pharmacists,” she said in her statement, adding again that each was on offer. “by a faculty member as a relevant area for continuing education.”
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Ted Sherman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @TedShermanSL