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SHOW ME THE RECORDS: Drug company payments to doctors

Friday, January 6, 2012 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 1:03 p.m. CST, Monday, January 9, 2012

* (An earlier version incorrectly said payments go toward promoting drugs. The data include research that doesn't involve promotions.)

Each week, the Missourian highlights a government record that is available to the public. Open records help people keep government in check and help them better understand how government affects their lives.

For a complete list of Show Me the Records, go to columbiamissourian.com/records. 

The records: ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, tracks, by state, the payments that 12 drug companies give to doctors and other health professionals*. ProPublica points out that though accepting payments isn’t necessarily wrong, it can raise ethical issues.

Why you'd want them: You can find out if your doctor or any medical institutions in your area are receiving payments and how much they're receiving from drug companies for consulting, speaking, marketing or a range of other reasons.

Where you get the records: Go to  projects.propublica.org/docdollars/states/26 to view payments drug companies made in Missouri.

How much will it cost: The information is free.

 


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Comments

Michael Williams January 7, 2012 | 11:09 a.m.

This article says, "...The records: ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, tracks, by state, the payments that 12 drug companies give to doctors and other health professionals for promoting their drugs."
___________________

I reviewed the linked web page. The various categories include things like "meals", "speaking", and "research". "Research" tended to be the highest dollar amount.

I would like to see what the term "research" means in the context of the article. For example, if a manufacturer provides money/pharmaceuticals to a physician for...say...clinical trials, then I see no reason to label this a semi-perjorative "promoting their drugs." It costs lots of money to do research.

If, however, the term "research" is just another word for "Thanks for writing prescriptions", that would be another story.

Similarly, "speaking" and "meals" are given for promoting drugs? When I had my lab, vendors took me out to lunch all the time. Some I did business with, and some I didn't. I even spoke to some of my clients for fee at their facilities and travel was included. Was this promoting their products? Well, I didn't see it that way at all, and I still don't; after all, in each case I was invited and the topic was suggested to me, not the other way around. Perhaps I had something important to say that they wished to learn. Perhaps physicians have something important to say to the manufacturer, things like side effects, applicability, usefulness, patient-types, compliance, etc.

In the absence of further information, I view this particular article/link as some sort of agenda-driven journalism. I conclude this because of the choice of verbiage used in the article, i.e., the words "give to doctors and other health professionals for promoting their drugs."

The money was for promoting drugs?

Well, ok.....you made the subtle accusation, it's up to you to prove it. Listing "meals", "speaking", and "research" as broad categories doesn't cut the mustard with me.

I'm hoping the Missourian didn't help make news.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 7, 2012 | 11:15 a.m.

Further, for anyone reading this, what do the words "promoting their drugs" mean to you?

For me, it means that the nasty pharma representative sneaks into the doctor's building with an appointment and they meet in a back room to discuss "I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine. In return for writing my drug's prescriptions, we'll give you money, fancy meals, and vacations under the guise of "research", "meals", and "speaking". Snicker, snicker."

It can also mean other things, as discussed in my first post above.

I want to know which is which. For now, all the Missourian has done is either write a "bias" or published a "bias".

And I'd like to know which is which on *that*, too.

(Report Comment)
Tom Warhover January 9, 2012 | 12:58 p.m.

Mr. Williams, you're right. The facts don't support the words "for promoting their drugs."

Here's what ProPublica says about the "research" category: "Research payments are distinct from speaking and consulting. Payments for clinical studies may include costs associated with patient care, supplies, as well as the time spent by health care professionals treating patients and managing the study. The figure listed may not reflect the actual compensation received by the physician listed as the principal investigator."

Thanks for the catch. We'll correct the item immediately.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 9, 2012 | 1:39 p.m.

Tom Warhover:

Having participated in clinical trials personally, I know that such trials are extraordinarily expensive. They can easily approach a half-million or more, depending up the protocol and location where they are conducted. Doing one in hospitals is quite expensive; doing them on an out-patient basis (i.e., at home) is much less so.

The statement "The figure listed may not reflect the actual compensation received by the physician listed as the principal investigator" is quite correct. The physician does indeed get a stipend for doing the research; but neither the stipend nor the cost of research should be considered "promoting their drugs."

(Report Comment)

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