Payments to Doctors by Pharmaceutical Companies Raise Issues of Conflicts

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Thousands of Texas doctors, researchers and medical experts — including more than 100 who are employed by the state and are paid with taxpayer dollars — routinely supplement their salaries with income from pharmaceutical companies.

Drug companies pay medical professionals for a wide range of activities, from speaking engagements to consulting. While legal, the practice raises questions about potential conflicts, and whether the interests of patients may be compromised.

From 2009 to early 2011, at least 25,000 Texas physicians and researchers received a combined $57 million — and probably far more — in cash payments, research money, free meals, travel and other perks, according to data culled from 12 drug companies and provided by the nonprofit investigative news organization ProPublica.

Dozens of these medical professionals were paid more than $100,000 each during that period. And 114 were professors, physicians, psychiatrists or researchers who were already paid a salary by the state — in some cases more than a half-million dollars a year. These state employees brought in nearly $3 million combined from pharmaceutical companies from 2009 to early 2011, according to a Texas Tribune analysis of the ProPublica data.

Nationwide, pharmaceutical manufacturers routinely pay medical professionals to assess a new product or to help contribute to the drug company’s sales. The companies fly medical professionals to seminars and conferences and may also pay speaking fees. State-employed doctors and researchers are generally no exception, though they are supposed to comply with their individual institutions’ conflict-of-interest policies….

By EMILY RAMSHAW and RYAN MURPHY

The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/25/us/payments-to-doctors-by-pharmaceutical-companies-raise-issues-of-conflicts.html

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