Drug Companies Paying Good Money for Bad Doctors

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According to a joint investigative report from ProPublica, NPR, PBS's "Nightly Business Report," the Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and Consumer Reports, drug companies have sought and received endorsements from doctors with a history of misconduct.

Drug companies say they hire the most respected doctors in their fields for the critical task of teaching about the benefits and risks of their drugs. But an investigation uncovered hundreds of doctors on company payrolls who had been accused of professional misconduct, including inappropriately prescribing drugs or having sex with patients and were disciplined by state boards, or lacked credentials as researchers or specialists.

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A review of physician licensing records in the 15 most populous states and three others found sanctions against more than 250 speakers, including some of the highest paid. Their misconduct included inappropriately prescribing drugs, providing poor care, or having sex with patients. Some of the doctors had even lost their licenses.

More than 40 have received FDA warnings for research misconduct, lost hospital privileges, or been convicted of crimes. And at least 20 more have had two or more malpractice judgments or settlements. This accounting is by no means complete; many state regulators do not post these actions on their websites.

Without question, the public should care,’’ said Dr. Joseph Ross, an assistant professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine who has written about the industry’s influence on physicians. “You would never want your kid learning from a bad teacher. Why would you want your doctor learning from a bad doctor, someone who hasn’t displayed good judgment in the past?’’

Charles Ornstein from ProPublica said that for many years the pharmaceutical industry has been paying doctors to speak and consult on their behalf, but the names of those doctors have largely been a secret. So for the first time we're seeing from the companies who they're paying for. “Now we have a chance to take a look at their backgrounds and what they're doing for the money.”

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