Minnesota Doctors Get Rx Payments Despite Citations
Minnesota state medical records show that more than 100 physicians who had been cited for misconduct by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice continued to receive drug company payments, and some continued to participate in clinical trials of experimental drugs, the New York Times reports. Although Minnesota is the only state to make its records public, many experts say the problem is national.
The Times' examination of Minnesota's records on drug company payments found that from 1997 to 2005, at least 103 physicians who had been disciplined or criticized by the state medical board received a total of $1.7 million from drug makers. The median payment during that period was $1,250, and the largest was $479,000.
Sanctions issued by the board included reprimands, required retraining and suspension of licenses. Of the 103 doctors, 39 had been disciplined for inappropriate prescribing practices, 21 for substance abuse, 12 for substandard care and three for mismanagement of drug studies.
David Rothman, president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University, said, "There's no reason to think Minnesota is unique" from other states in the nation. He added, "Clinical trial investigators must be culled from only the finest physicians in the country since they work on the frontiers of new knowledge. That drug makers are scraping the bottom of the medical barrel is an outrage."
Karl Uhlendorf, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the trade group would not comment on the Times' findings.
The Times profiled Faruk Abuzzahab, a Minnesota psychiatrist who received more than $55,000 in drug company payments from 1997 to 2005 despite being disciplined in December 1997. According to the board, Abuzzahab inappropriately discharged from the hospital a suicidal patient who declined to enroll in a clinical trial for which the doctor was recruiting. The patient later committed suicide (Harris/Roberts, New York Times, 6/3).