Newspapers on Wednesday examined issues related to the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and physicians. Summaries of the articles appear below.
- Gifts: Psychiatrists in Vermont earn more money from pharmaceutical companies than other medical specialists, according to a report released on Tuesday by the state, the New York Times reports. Vermont identified the top 100 paid specialists in the state, finding 11 psychiatrists and five endocrinologists in the group. The state found that payments to psychiatrists more than doubled from an average of $20,835 in 2005 to $45,692 in 2006. Endocrinologists earned the second highest amount from drug companies at an average of $33,730 in 2006. Researchers also found that psychiatrists who earn the most from drug companies prescribe atypical antipsychotic drugs off-label to children most often. A similar pattern was found in Minnesota, where psychiatrists earn more from drug companies than other physicians and prescribe more antipsychotic drugs to children. The findings "have helped to fuel a growing interest among state and federal officials to document and restrict payments to doctors from drug makers," according to the Times (Harris, New York Times, 6/27).
- Continuing medical education: Pharmaceutical companies in 2005 paid for about half of the $2.25 billion annual cost of continuing medical education courses that physicians must take to maintain their medical licenses, the Washington Post reports. Data show that drug and medical device makers pay for about two-thirds of the cost of courses sponsored by prestigious medical schools. Critics say that the rise of pharmaceutical-sponsored CME courses "raises health care costs, skews doctors' treatment decisions and allows the industry to skirt laws against advertising 'off-label' uses for its products," according to the Post. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chair Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) said, "It appears that everyone profits from this pervasive system of gifts and payments, except the consumer." However, Scott Lassman, senior assistant general counsel for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that pharmaceutical sponsorship of CME courses allows physicians to learn about the latest medical and scientific research. He added that the courses "are viewed as running independently of the pharmaceutical company. The company may be providing the funding for it, but they are not directing the content." The Senate committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the issue (Williamson/Lee, Washington Post, 6/27).
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Publication Date: 2007-06-29 16:00