Lots of drug-related conflict of interest news this week

Gardiner Harris of the New York Times is all over issues about drug company influence on doctors and on the FDA this week. Today he writes:

Expert advisers to the government who receive money from a drug or device maker would be barred for the first time from voting on whether to approve that company’s products under new rules announced Wednesday for the F.D.A.’s powerful advisory committees.

Indeed, such doctors who receive more than $50,000 from a company or a competitor whose product is being discussed would no longer be allowed to serve on the committees, though those who receive less than that amount in the prior year can join a committee and participate in its discussions.

A “significant number? of the agency’s present advisers would be affected by the new policy, said the F.D.A. acting deputy commissioner, Randall W. Lutter, though he would not say how many.

Yesterday, Harris' story on "Doctors' Ties to Drug Makers Are Put on Close View" simply blew away the competition - better by far than any other story I saw on the subject in many media across the country - including right here in Minneapolis. He and Janet Robert reported on records in Minnesota, where drug makers are required 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.

The reporting on this latter story was complete and comprehensive, with many examples of Minnesota physicians receiving surprising amounts of money from drug companies; ten doctors and one dentist received more than $500,000. You should read the entire story. But be ready to take an anti-anxiety pill when you're done.

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Schwitzer published on March 22, 2007 8:08 AM.

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