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Friday, October 22, 2010

ProPublica Report Outs Doctors on Drug Company Payrolls

The results of a new investigation into financial relationships between doctors and pharmaceutical companies were published online this week by ProPublica. Seven of the nation's largest drug manufacturers and marketers—AstraZeneca, Cephalon, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer—have disclosed payments they made in 2009 and 2010 to physicians who promoted their drugs. Together, these companies account for about 36% of the US prescription drug market, which is worth about $300 billion.

Long an industry secret, these payments to physicians for speaking engagements, promotions, and consulting work are being disclosed due to settlements with the government and other reasons. The healthcare reform law signed by President Obama in March will require all pharmaceutical companies to make this kind of disclosure starting in 2013.

ProPublica has analyzed and compiled data from the individual companies' disclosures, which the companies made as difficult and confusing as possible, into a database of doctors who received payments from drug companies. On ProPublica's website, you can find out if your doctor received drug company money.

While doctors interviewed by ProPublica claimed they were not influenced by the drug money cash, the former pharmaceutical company marketers they interviewed told a different story. The psychiatrists, physicians, and nurses that drug companies select for speaking engagements, the marketers said, were chosen as "thought leaders" because of the high volume of prescriptions they write. Drug companies have found that medical professionals who are paid to promote a drug nearly always write more prescriptions for that drug, providing a significant return on investment for the pharmaceutical companies.

What consumers worry about is that many of these doctors may have been paid to promote defective drugs or drugs with dangerous side effects, such as Avandia. In fact, patients injured by drugs that their doctor was paid to promote may potentially have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Since many of those in ProPublica's database are psychiatrists, psychiatric malpractice may also be involved. Indeed, ProPublica reports that more than twenty doctors on their list have two or more medical malpractice settlements or judgments against them.

If you have been injured by a defective prescription drug, please contact the personal injury attorneys of The Cochran Firm to set up a free evaluation of your case.

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posted by Benjamin A. Irwin at 2:16 PM

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