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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 18939

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Crimaldi L, McConville C
Docs gain big bucks from drugs, devices
The Boston Herald 2010 Nov 23

Full text:

Thousands of Bay State health-care providers raked in tens of millions of dollars from pharmaceutical companies and medical-device manufacturers during the last six months of last year, according to an online state database that made the payments public for the first time and immediately sparked concerns about the effect on spiraling health-care costs and doctors’ integrity.

“There’s the potential for bias, and the potential for the increased cost of care,” said Tufts Medical School professor Dr. Jerome Kassirer, “but the biggest concern is that the public just won’t trust their doctors anymore.”

Just under $35.7 million was paid out. Of that, about 46 percent – approximately $16.4 million – was paid to 5,048 physicians licensed in the Bay State, Department of Public Health officials said. Those doctors represent about 15 percent of Massachusetts physicians.

Drugmakers told the state they spent $400,000 just to market drugs to medical professionals, noted Georgia Maheras, whose Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition backed the database.

“That got diverted from research, and perhaps making a drug more affordable,” she said. “A buck here, a buck there, it can really add up.”

The database – mandated under a 2008 law – documents payments of $50 or more to recipients who provided “sales and marketing” services, such as product education and advertising, on behalf of a manufacturer.

Many scientists defend the expenditures, even amid spiraling health-care costs.

“Education of health-care providers on these ever-changing treatments ensures that patients will receive the care they need and deserve,” said Robert Coughlin, president and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. “There is nothing nefarious about an expert health-care provider working to make this a reality.”

According to the database, Massachusetts General Hospital received the most from pharmaceutical companies and medical-device manufacturers, taking in $3.8 million from 65 different firms.

In January, Mass. General’s parent company, Partners HealthCare, banned doctors and scientists from participating in industry-funded speeches, limited the amount of compensation senior officials may receive for serving on the board of biomedical companies that do business with any Partners entities, and required senior employees to have other outside activities approved.

The database does have some glitches. It listed Worcester psychologist Carole Upshur as the No. 1 earner, with $250,000 from Allergan. The company provided her name in error, according to the state. That money went to the University of Massachusetts Medical School.


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