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Lawmakers Push To Tighten Conflict-Of-Interest By Drugmakers

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, June 30, 2008 10:53 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Conflict-of-Interest, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Antipsychotics, Pfizer, Drug Makers, Drug Products

conflicts of interest hurting patients 




IMAGE SOURCE: WikipediaCommons/ medications/ Tibor Kadek


When you go to your doctor, you presume that he or she is prescribing you a drug that will be the best cure for your ailment, not the drug that your doctor is being paid to promote. 

But today, the chances are that your doctor does accept benefits from drug companies. 

According to a study from the University of Quebec, drug companies may pay doctors as much as $57 million a year, which covers consulting fees, speaking fees on their drugs, and medical seminars promoting the drugs.  The data shows that the drug industry is spending a great deal more money marketing to doctors than on advertising to the public.

One family experienced this conflict of interest first hand.   

Candace Downing, a happy 12-year-old who had been prescribed Zoloft, hung herself from her bed-post.  The Downings are blaming the girl’s suicide on the drug Zoloft.  They had wondered why the doctor prescribed such a powerful drug when Candace only complained of anxiety from school. 

Then they found out that their doctor, Matheme Selassie, had been paid almost $12,000 to make speeches endorsing the drug.  The family believes that the money influenced the doctor’s decision. 

Smokers who go to a smoking cessation clinic in New Jersey are not told that the doctors who run it are being paid by Pfizer, maker of the drug Chantix to be “key opinion leaders” and consultants to the drugmaker.

Many people, such as Sen. Charles Grassley, believe these payments should be reported and made available for the public to see.  Grassley serves as the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs.  

He has been investigating the money that the drug companies are paying doctors for academic research.  He is examining some of the top medical schools in the nation, such as Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Cincinnati, for under-reporting the amount of money that researchers receive from drug companies.  He wants to find out if this money is affecting the research. 

"The public relies on the advice of doctors and leading researchers," Grassley said in an e-mail to BusinessWeek. "The public has a right to know about financial relationships between those doctors and the drug companies who make the pharmaceuticals prescribed by doctors."
One doctor from Harvard, Dr. Joseph Biederman was among three distinguished Harvard University psychiatrists failed to report over three million dollars in payments they received from drug makers, violating U.S. government and school rules.

Dr. Biederman is known worldwide for his controversial work in researching and promoting antipsychotic medicines such as Strattera, used in the treatment for attention deficit disorder in children.

Hiding these payments makes Grassley think these researchers have something to conceal.

According to Grassley, Dr. Alan Schatzberg, who is the head of the psychiatry department at Stanford, did not inform the school about a $109,179 profit from the sale of some shares in 2005. 

The senator stated that Schatzberg deceptively reported that his stock holdings in Corcept Therapeutics were worth “over $100,000”, when they were worth more than $6 million.

Sen. Grassley is proposing more transparency and has proposed legislation that would require drug companies to report any payment over $500 made to a physician.  That information would then be disclosed on a government website.

Pfizer, in a statement to CBS defends consulting payments. Paying a doctor helps the company learn “how to reduce adverse reactions…and improve effectiveness.” #

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