Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Drug firms paid $2B to doctors to pitch products and conduct research, study says

More than 13,000 physicians in New Jersey were among hundreds of thousands across the country paid $2 billion by pharmaceutical companies over the last four years to pitch brand-name drugs to their peers and conduct research, according to the most extensive study of the financial relationship between the companies and medical practitioners.

In Bergen and Passaic counties, 38 doctors and two hospitals received more than $25,000 from pharmaceutical companies – making a combined $4.5 million, according to the report by ProPublica, a non-profit investigative news organization that compiled the figures from information major drug companies filed with the federal government.

While doctors are often paid to speak about drugs they have used on patients and believe in, the practice has raised persistent ethical concerns. Drug makers say they are tapping into the medical expertise of physicians to teach their peers or conduct research, but others worry the practice may unduly influence the medications prescribed to patients.

“This is a very serious conflict of interest for physicians,” said Craig Holman, the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, a national consumer advocacy group. “Clearly what’s happening is the pharmaceutical companies are rewarding or endearing physicians in order to promote and prescribe their drugs.”

One of the top recipients in North Jersey was Thomas Dayspring, an internist and expert in cholesterol management, who earned just under $400,000 from Merck and GlaxoSmithKline. Dayspring said he was paid for lectures at conferences for doctors arranged by the drug companies, as well as continuing medical education programs.


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