The Right Prescription

Golden Clipboards for Golden Health Reformers

Honoring insiders who've tried to move health-care reform in the right direction.

By 1.6.10

As we flip the calendar to a new year and a new decade, it's time again for the Golden Clipboard Awards.

Why a golden clipboard? Well, commenting on the current state of 21st-century bioinformatics, Dr. Janet Woodcock, the head of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, quipped, "Today the major tool of modern medicine seems to be the clipboard."

In the past, we've given out awards to those who impede (unwittingly or otherwise) the advance of medical progress. For 2009, in the spirit of nonpartisanship, we hand out honors based on those who helped move the needle towards real healthcare reform in a more positive direction.

Herewith our 2009 honorees…

Honorable Mention: The FDA for telling Senator Dorgan et al. to park their idea for drug importation in a tamper-proof location.

Honorable Mention: Richard "Buzz" Cooper of the Leonard David School of Public Health at University of Pennsylvania and Gary Puckrein of the National Minority Quality Forum for respectfully challenging the outdated Dartmouth methodology and forcing policymakers to examine the impact of poverty, behavior, and severity of illness on differences in health expenditures. Equally dead is not a baseline.

Honorable Mention: Representatives Mike Rogers (R) and Anna Eshoo (D) for working together to promote a safe and savvy pathway for follow-on biologics.

Honorable Mention: Billy Tauzin for cutting "the deal" that protects the Non-Interference Clause, thus preventing a slippery slide towards broader government price controls for pharmaceuticals. Price controls = choice controls.

The Bronze Clipboard: We are pleased to award the 2009 Bronze Clipboard to Paul Offit for bravely and publicly standing up to those (including CBS News) who slandered him and threatened the lives of his children for simply saying vaccines have benefits far outweighing the risks.

The Silver Clipboard: Kudos to Silver Clipboard winner NIH Director Francis Collins for telling it like it is about comparative effectiveness when he points out that it ignores individual differences that we know exist at the clinical and genetic level.

And the 2009 Golden Clipboard winner is…DRUMROLL PLEASE… The Golden Clipboard Winner for 2009 is FDA Commissioner Peggy Hamburg for saying "yes" to science and personalized medicine and "no" to political interference at the FDA. She calls it like she sees it and that's just the attitude required to help the FDA advance the public health by being both regulator and colleague to the industries the agency oversees. It's a tightrope to be sure -- but Dr. Hamburg has the requisite smarts and finesse.

And so, Golden Clipboards awarded, let us march forward together into 2010 with high hopes and in a spirit of cooperation to advance the public health.

(But we're keeping our athletic supporters on just in case.)

Happy New Year.

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About the Author

Peter Pitts is partner/director of global health at Porter Novelli, a senior fellow at the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, and a former FDA associate commissioner.