Boston Globe Examines Federal Investigation of Pharmaceutical Company Donations to Teaching Hospitals
The Boston Globe yesterday examined the "widespread crackdown" by federal investigators on drug company marketing practices at teaching hospitals. According to several lawyers representing hospitals and drug companies, federal investigators, led by the U.S. attorney's office in Boston, are issuing subpoenas to drug companies and teaching hospitals over educational grants drug companies have provided the hospitals for lunchtime lectures, costly medical books and conference speakers. The prosecutors are examining whether drug companies have been using these grants to influence doctors at teaching hospitals to prescribe their medications. According to the Globe, teaching hospitals are of particular interest to the prosecutors because they are "centers of influence that train the nation's future physicians." While the investigators do not know how many subpoenas have been sent to teaching hospitals and drug companies, or whether the government is specifically targeting the hospitals or the drug makers, they said that the subpoenas are mostly information-gathering requests that could be used in civil or criminal cases. The Globe reports that the "stakes for hospitals are extremely high" because hospitals have used the educational grants to supplement budgets and because a conviction for violating anti-kickback statutes would mean the hospital could no longer treat Medicare patients. Michael Fee, a lawyer for Tufts-New England Medical Center, said, "The fact that grants are going on, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. The government's concern should be whether the grant is tied to sales, and that's where the proof is lacking" (Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, 6/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.