Over 17,000 Doctors Took Cash From Pharma Companies to Tout Medications to Other Physicians

October 20, 2010

(ChattahBox U.S. News) – If you see two doctors chatting about the benefits of a certain prescription and how it cured patients’ ailments, you might not be viewing a simple friendly conversation – it may be a paid educational session.

Seven pharmaceutical companies revealed that they collectively paid over 17,000 physicians to “spread the word” about specific drugs between 2009 and 2010, sometimes advising the doctors to suggest the benefits of off-label uses for the medications, according to a report by journalism group ProPublica, Consumer Reports magazine, NPR radio and several publications, via Reuters.Although the payments are not illegal, the results show the depth of drug companies’ interest in having physicians influence one another, and the seven drug makers who disclosed how many physicians were on their payrolls constitute just the tip of the iceberg. An additional 70+ drug manufacturers haven’t yet shared information about their payments to doctors, but they will have to by 2013 under the new healthcare reform law, Reuters reports.

Although the report does not indicate specific amounts that the physicians collected, it does note that over 380 of the physicians were paid more than $100,000 by big pharma between 2009 and 2010.

Drug companies defended the payments, saying that doctors were paid to “educate their peers” about medications and diagnoses, which sometimes “involve briefings at vacation resorts,” the report notes.


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