Friday, April 27, 2007

Doctors' Ties to Drug Makers Are Put on Close View

Psalms 16:4
The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied; I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

Ezekiel 28:16a
"By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence,....


NEW YORK TIMES - By Gardiner Harris And Janet Roberts - March 21, 2007

Dr. Allan Collins may be the most influential kidney specialist in the country. He is president of the National Kidney Foundation and director of a government-financed research center on kidney disease.

In 2004, the year he was chosen as president-elect of the kidney foundation, the pharmaceutical company Amgen, which makes the most expensive drugs used in the treatment of kidney disease, underwrote more than $1.9 million worth of research and education programs led by Dr. Collins, according to records examined by The New York Times. In 2005, Amgen paid Dr. Collins at least $25,800, mostly in consulting and speaking fees, the records show.

The payments to Dr. Collins and the research center appear in an unusual set of records. They come from Minnesota, the first of a handful of states to pass a law requiring drug makers to disclose payments to doctors. The Minnesota records are a window on the widespread financial ties between pharmaceutical companies and the doctors who prescribe and recommend their products. Patient advocacy groups and many doctors themselves have long complained that drug companies exert undue influence on doctors, but the extent of such payments has been hard to quantify.

The Minnesota records begin in 1997. From then through 2005, drug makers paid more than 5,500 doctors, nurses and other health care workers in the state at least $57 million. Another $40 million went to clinics, research centers and other organizations. More than 20 percent of the state's licensed physicians received money. The median payment per consultant was $1,000; more than 100 people received more than $100,000.

Doctors receive money typically in return for delivering lectures about drugs to other doctors. Some of the doctors receiving the most money sit on committees that prepare guidelines instructing doctors nationwide about when to use medicines. Dr. Collins, who received more money than anyone else in the state, is among a limited number whose payments financed research. - - -

There is nothing illegal about doctors' accepting money for marketing talks, and professional organizations have largely ignored the issue.

But research shows that doctors who have close relationships with drug makers tend to prescribe more, newer and pricier drugs - whether or not they are in the best interests of patients.

"When honest human beings have a vested stake in seeing the world in a particular way, they're incapable of objectivity and independence," said Max H. Bazerman, a professor at Harvard Business School. "A doctor who represents a pharmaceutical company will tend to see the data in a slightly more positive light and as a result will overprescribe that company's drugs." - - - -




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