ProPublica Investigates Doctors Who Represent Pharmaceutical Industry
The not-for-profit news group ProPublica recently compiled a database of disclosures from drugmakers who have revealed which physicians they pay to speak on behalf of their drugs, NPR's "Morning Edition" reports.
The database covers payments to physicians and other health care providers totaling $257.8 million since 2009 for speaking, consulting and other duties.
The database includes payments from:
- Eli Lilly;
- Johnson & Johnson;
- Merck; and
- Pfizer ("Morning Edition," NPR, 10/19).
Contents of the Database
The database lists around 17,700 health care providers.
Although most health care providers receiving payouts were physicians, several were nurses, pharmacists or other practitioners (Boston Globe, 10/19).
According to the database, 384 individuals received more than $100,000 from one or more of the companies in the last two years. In addition, 43 physicians received more than $200,000, while two received more than $300,000.
Some Physicians Receiving Payments Have Questionable Records
During its investigation, ProPublica found that hundreds of physicians who received the payments have questionable records, the Boston Globe reports.
According to the probe, some of the physicians have been accused of professional misconduct, while others were disciplined by state boards or do not have sufficient credentials as researchers or specialists.
More than 250 experts paid by the companies in 18 states -- including some of the highest-paid speakers -- have been cited for misconduct, including:
- Inappropriately prescribing drugs;
- Providing inadequate care; or
- Having sex with patients.
Some of the physicians even lost their licenses before becoming drug company speakers, according to ProPublica.
In addition, more than 40 experts have received FDA warnings for research misconduct, lost hospital privileges or have been found guilty of crimes, while at least 20 more have been the target of two or more malpractice lawsuits (Ornstein et al., Boston Globe, 10/19).
In an interview with NPR, ProPublica senior reporter Charles Ornstein said that he and his colleagues asked drugmakers how they screen their physicians.
Ornstein said, "For the most part, they said that they relied on the doctors to tell them if they ran into trouble or they checked federal databases to see if their misconduct had barred them from participating in federal health programs."
Ornstein said ProPublica found just two drugmakers that checked with state medical board websites to determine if physicians had been disciplined in those states.
Ornstein said that after ProPublica revealed the history of some of the speakers, the drug companies "said that they're certainly going to look into the doctors" in question. They also said "that they would be looking at their practices" for finding experts, according to Ornstein ("Morning Edition," NPR, 10/19).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.