Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is Pharma Paying Your Doctor?

[Note: Majority of the information below was pasted from an email announcement and one other source online.  I just fixed some of the links.]

An historic piece of journalism was published today. Six news organizations partnered on the "Dollars for Docs" project - ProPublica, NPR, PBS's Nightly Business Report, the Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and Consumer Reports. They examined $258 million in payments by seven drug companies in 2009 and 2010 to about 17,700 health care practitioners nationwide for speaking, consulting and other tasks.  The project offers details on the seven pharma companies, the top earners and a chart of the number of doctors in each state, their professional backgrounds and what they did on behalf of the drug companies.

In a major investigation of pharmaceutical company payments to doctors, ProPublica and our partners found that hundreds of the doctors who are being paid to promote drugs have been accused of professional misconduct, were disciplined by state boards or lacked credentials as specialists.  A sidebar piece examines lawsuits brought by former pharma employees who alleged their companies illegally marketed brand-name drugs.

Today, NPR will feature interviews with Charles Ornstein on Morning Edition and Tracy Weber on All Things Considered and next week NPR's Alix Spiegel will have an in-depth piece.  The Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune published their own related stories, while the Nightly Business Report will run features on their program on Tuesday and Wednesday.  And Consumer Reports published a survey of patient attitudes toward pharma payments to doctors.

Ornstein and Weber won a Pulitzer Prize for their King/Drew medical series in the Los Angeles Times in 2005 and they were finalists for the award this year for their coverage of health care issues for ProPublica.  Both are available to do interviews to discuss this new investigation.  The reporters will also host a conference call this Thursday, October 21st at 3pm Eastern to explain how other reporters can follow up on their work and do their own local investigations (details to follow soon).  We hope you will join us by writing, blogging, tweeting or republishing it for your audience.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions at all.

Best regards,
Mike Webb & Quadia Muhammad


  1. Is Pharma Paying Your Doctor?

    Well, I always thought so...this really isn't news to me.

    I'm not sure how prevalent this is in Canada.


  2. Thanks for writing this, Lisa. I have been aware of it, and even attended one of the speaking engagements. Isn't it a shame (and now a crime?) that we contributed to those payouts by paying such huge amounts for our DMDs?!

  3. Big Pharma now sponsors nearly if not all of the MS Society's Lectures on various topics. Often speakers are flown in from out of state, and certainly they are given compensation for their time. Still, most that I have heard have not promoted one drug over another; they just promoted drugs as the first and best way to treat MS.

    Still, this news is yet another annoyance within our health care "industry."

  4. News to WHO? I tried to get local reporters interested in this back in 2004, NO ONE CARED. I've been complaining about it ever since. NO ONE CARED. Especially many MS patients who threw blog stones at me. How DARE I suggest such a thing?! And what if it were true, the doctors deserve a little extra. PLEZZZ FYI reporters: the medical lobby is STRONG and you waited way too long to go after this story. Good luck now.

  5. Ladies,

    You make me smile. One reason I posted this is because it seems to be SUCH BIG NEWS in other health news circles. The only thing unique here is that this group has compiled information regarding physician payments (which is publicly available on the respective drug company's websites) into one resource.

    The information about lack of credentials for some doctors and disciplinary action is a bit more investigative I suppose.

    I was curious to see what kind of reaction we each might have to this "news." I did look up my doctors in the database and they were not to be found (which wasn't a surprise).

    I did pick a couple of 'famous' neurologists to see if they were included in the database.

    *Dr.Daniel Kantor (Florida)= Pfizer paid him $2837 in the 2nd half of last year. $2500 for 'Expert-led Forums' and $337 for travel.

    *Dr.Allen Bowling (Colorado)= Pfizer paid him $19,712 in the 2nd half of last year. $19,250 for 'Expert-led Forums' and $462 for travel.

    You know, if there were a similar database for patient advocates who are brought to conventions (such as BlogWorld), I would be found as J&J was one of the sponsors who provided my travel and lodging. But you know that I'm not pimping any J&J products. :)

  6. My response to this was the same as it was to the news that Gilenya was going to be really really expensive: