By Michael Connors
A recent ProPublica investigation found that seven large drug companies paid nearly $282 million to physicians in 2009 and 2010, with California doctors leading the nation by taking over $28.6 million from major drug manufacturers. At least three California doctors collected more than $200,000 from drug companies, while another 36 took more than $100,000. The figures do not include drug samples, the cost of continuing education programs, and meals brought to doctors’ offices.
Although the drug company payments are not illegal, they raise ethical questions about physicians’ prescribing practices. Drug companies have turned dangerous antipsychotic drugs into top sellers by persuading doctors to prescribe them off-label for elderly persons with dementia.
ProPublica has compiled a database on its website where the names of the on-the-take doctors are listed. In California, more than 3,000 doctors took drug company payments.
In a related story, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that about 48 of the California doctors who took drug company money over the last 21 months have been the subject of disciplinary action.