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Thursday, December 11, 2008

If David could speak from his grave: Regulations on drug companies' gifts to doctors

David Olson's story appeared here more than a year ago.

Officials in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are now writing regulations about the disclosure of gifts that doctors get, e.g., from drug companies, according to an article by Liz Kowalczyk in the Boston Globe of Dec. 6.

If David could speak from his grave, he might want his voice heard loud and clear on this. A drug company was paying David's psychiatrist thousands of dollars for participating in a drug study. After David's death, the state medical board criticized the doctor, concluding that he had "failed to appreciate the risks of taking Patient 46 off Clozaril, failed to respond appropriately to the patient's rapid deterioration and virtually ignored the patient's suicidality." It's hard to avoid concluding that the payment of thousands of dollars for recruiting each of a number of patients into the drug trial had affected the doctor's judgment.

Worse, this was no "bad apple." The doctor was the president of the Minnesota's psychiatric society.

Officials in Massachusetts are now considering whether doctors must disclose payments for research and research-related activities. Note that, whatever they decide, doctors will be free to receive these payments. The issue at stake is only whether patients will be able to find out about it.

Advice: Work to ensure that doctors disclose the sources of their money.

Read a story about a different conflict of interest by a doctor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fortunately many agencies, universities, and other medical authorities are beginning to make some clear guidelines about what physicians can and cannot take from drug companies. I've always taken the stance to take "less." I've never wanted to feel obligated to any pharmaceutical company. This, obviously, didn't make me popular with the representatives who came to my office. I think it is a waste of money to take physicians to lunch and dinner in order to promotes various drugs. I think physicians can certainly afford to pay for their own meals.

David Thomas MD