Drug Company Payments To Doctors: Continuing Controversy
The New York Times has two stories on pharmaceutical industry payments to physicians and experts.
In the first, the paper reports that the new federal health care law will require drug companies and medical device makers to disclose payments made to doctors, starting in 2013. Some of the big drug makers already have released their databases, though "many followers of the pharmaceutical industry are still finding it far too difficult to follow the money. ... The money disclosed in such databases can be substantial. Pfizer, for instance, listed $35 million in payments to 4,500 doctors and 250 research organizations from June through December 2009."
"Senate researchers have found that some prominent doctors at academic medical centers have failed to disclose millions of dollars in drug company payments, despite university requirements that they do so. ...
Industry supporters, meanwhile, say they are trying to restore public trust, and they emphasize the importance of collaboration between pharmaceutical companies, academia and physicians to advance medicine" (Wilson, 4/12).
The Times also reports that a "new analysis of reviews and articles about the controversial diabetes drug Avandia has found that experts who were paid by its manufacturer have been significantly more likely than others to draw positive conclusions about the drug's safety and efficacy."
The study, which was published online in the journal BMJ, reviewed 202 articles about the drug Avandia, and the risk of heart attack associated with it. The study found that "often, authors with favorable opinions of the drug were paid both by Avandia's maker, GlaxoSmithKline, and by its competitors. Of those who offered favorable views, 87 percent had potential conflicts with Glaxo. Among authors who had unfavorable opinions, only 20 percent had received money from Glaxo." According to the authors the study was purely, "observational," and "drew no conclusions about the safety or efficacy of Avandia" (Bakalar, 4/12).