Today in research: doctors are getting paid by big pharma, plenty of people are having trouble sleeping, politicians rhetoric may be white noise and Weight Watchers works*

  • It looks lucrative to be a promotional speaker for a big pharmaceutical company.  $220 million was paid by  pharma companies to people talking about their products during speeches last year, according to non-profit investigative news outlet ProPublica. And that figure is only a preview of a presumably larger figure once all companies are required to disclose their numbers in 2013. The site has also updated its web tool "to search for individual physicians to see whether they've been on pharma's payroll." [ProPublica]
  • Also: U.S. physicians are paid more than foreign counterparts. A new Columbia University study illustrating the unsustainable nature of the U.S. healthcare system compared doctors in developed countries (UK, Australia, Canada etc), finding that U.S. physicians are making much more. The study's lead author Miriam J. Laugesen attributed the pay disparity as due partly to the higher cost of procedures stateside. [MSNBC.com]
  • Sleeplessness transcends borders. 40 percent of our Canadian neighbors suffer from symptoms of insomnia, according to Université Laval researchers who parsed a sample of 2,400 Canadians. They can join the club: earlier this month, Harvard Medical researchers found that insomnia hobbles a typical American worker to the tune of 11 lost days in productivity and $2,300 dollars, reported CBS News.[Eurekalert, CBS News]
  • *Weight Watchers helps people diet better, says study funded by Weight Watchers.  We've seen articles everywhere today saying that Weight Watchers works, see: "Overweight patients told by their doctors to go to Weight Watchers lose around twice as much weight as people receiving standard weight loss care over 12 months," leads Reuters. But let's temper the excitement a bit. There's this little disclaimer: "Weight Watchers funded the study," The Los Angeles Times disclosed. [Reuters, Los Angeles Times]
  • People may tune out when elected officials say things through news media. Conveniently timed for Obama's over-anticipated address comes a study from a Michigan State researcher who found that the bully pulpit may not be that effective in certain instances. According to a news release, political science professor Corwin Smidt used as a case study the media coverage and D.C. debate of gun control in 2000 and healthcare reform in 2009. Smidt theorized: "politicians can't use the bully pulpit to influence public opinion through the news media as much as many people thought they could." [Michigan State University News Release]