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Drug Companies Paying Doctors Under Disciplinary Action

Steve Wagner

It’s not unusual for doctors to act as advisers, consultants, and speakers for pharmaceutical companies. This may sound strange, but as long as the payments are not provided as an inducement to use specific products, it is completely legal. Recent nation-wide analysis of these payments show a disturbing trend. More than 2,000 doctors who had been found guilty of misconduct continued to receive payments from pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

How Much Do Doctors Make From Pharma Companies?

ProPublica, self-described as “an independent, non-profit newsroom,” has maintained a publicly searchable database of doctors receiving payment from pharmaceutical companies since 2010. Their database shows many of the doctors who perform part-time work for pharma companies make between $5,000 and $25,000 per year for advising, speaking, and consulting duties. On the high end, there are doctors making six figures via their engagement with the pharmaceutical industry. Some high payments to doctors may be misleading, as payments for pharmaceutical research (including salaries for training, equipping, and paying a research team) may be included.

ProPublica provides their searchable database as a resource for patients, so that they may understand any link between their doctor and a pharmaceutical or medical device company. Though a financial link certainly does not establish any kind of wrong-doing on the part of doctors or the industry, it is advisable for patients to know about such links. This allows them to ask questions and make appropriate health care choices if they feel a doctor is pushing a particular medication.

Thousands of Misbehaving Doctors Getting Paid

This week, ProPublica released an analysis of the doctors in their database in relation to any punishable misconduct on the doctors’ records. Shockingly, they were able to identify more than 2,300 doctors who received payments from pharmaceutical or medical device companies despite histories of misconduct. Many of these doctors had been sanctioned for minor offenses, such as failing to attend continuing education courses. If we discount those doctors as having committed “less concerning” offenses, the ProPublica analysis still provides a list of hundreds of doctors who had been found guilty of severe offenses.

Severe offenses include sexual misconduct, cheating public insurance companies, providing an unacceptable level of care, and prescribing addictive medications unnecessarily or inappropriately. Nearly 200 of the doctors found to be receiving industry payments after misconduct had had their licenses temporarily suspended or restricts. Several dozen surrendered their licenses or had them revoked—permanently.

ProPublica had analyzed this information before in 2010, with positive results for the general public. Several companies, such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca revised their screening process for doctors engaged in industry work. Though most companies screen doctors at the beginning of a contract, it is less common for an ongoing screening process to occur. The current analysis shows 400 pharmaceutical and medical device companies providing payment to doctors who have committed some type of misconduct.

The medical malpractice attorneys at Wagner Reese always encourage patients to gather information in order to help them get the best health care possible. If your medical treatment caused serious, further injury to your health, it is advisable to look into the decisions that led to the initial treatment. If you believe your doctor may be at fault for severe illness, injury, or the death of a loved one, call us today at (888) 204-8440. Your initial consultation is free, and we don’t get paid unless we secure a verdict or settlement in your favor.


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