Website Exposes Doctor Ties To Big Pharma

If you live in the USA, and you want some idea of what doctors are being paid off by the pharmaceutical industry in your area, there’s a website up now through which you can investigate the matter. As reported in a article, Searchable “doctor-dollars” database lists big pharma payments to cardiologists.

A collaborative project spearheaded by investigative-journalism group ProPublica, in partnership with a range of other US media outlets, has launched a free, interactive database listing pharmaceutical-company payments to individual physicians. So far, the database includes payments made by seven of the biggest pharmaceutical companies—some of which the US Department of Justice has required to disclose physician payments as part of settlement agreements—which account for a boggling $258 million to roughly 17 700 doctors. The plan is to add 70 more companies.

This database actually lists big pharma payments to doctors of all sorts, not only cardiologists. Some of the doctors taking such kickbacks from the pharmaceutical companies are psychiatrists.

Serious conflict of interest issues are involved here. When a doctor puts profits before people in this fashion, the health of patients will suffer. Many of the drugs used in the treatment of psychiatric conditions either work no better than a placebo, or they shorten the lifespan of the person taking them appreciably. Physicians should be more concerned about advancing the health of their patients than they are with lining their wallets with blood money from the pharmaceutical companies. There can be no doubt about the matter, this practice has lead to iatrogenic conditions patients have developed, many of which have lead directly to the deaths of patients.

The 10 highest-paid physicians in 2009-2010 for each of the seven companies are listed on the site, spanning all medical disciplines but including a handful of cardiologists. ProPublica researchers also compiled a list of health providers who were paid at least $100 000 (typically from more than one company) over the past 18 months, turning up 384 names, including 41 who earned more than $200 000 through speaking or consulting arrangements and two who earned over $300 000, from one or more of the seven companies.

With a little bit of time and effort anybody can now find out what psychiatrists are in bed with the pharmaceutical industry in their own locality within the continental USA by going to the ProPublica website, and investigating the matter personally.

I went through the list of 384 names taking in more than $100,000, and I came up with the following 9 psychiatrists in my home state of Florida. Distressingly, number 2 among these psychiatrists is practicing in my home town of Gainesville.

Rex Birkmire; $164,750; Winter Park, Fernpark
Lawrence Reccoppa; $152,339; Gainesville
Juan Balaguer; $119,629; Maitland, Sanford, Winter Park
Kenneth P. Pages; $117,379; Tampa
Donna S. Holland; $103,905; Boca Raton
William M. Glazer; $102,536; Key West
Anjali Pathak; $102,084; Jacksonville
Charles Devine; $102,068; Brandon
Eric M. Kaplan; $100,116; Lutz

You may not think of $100,000 as very much money, but it is a lot to some people. $100,000 may not pay a psychiatrists salary, but it would pay the yearly salaries of 3 college educated white collar workers. Very disturbing if you consider that these funds are subsidiary to the money the psychiatrist pulls in from his or her practice.

Update 10/23/10

An article in MedScape Medical News, Psychiatrists Dominate “Doctor-Dollars” Database Listing Big Pharma Payments, points out that the highest number physicians in taking money from drug companies in the ProPublica database are psychiatrists.

More psychiatrists are listed in the database than any other kind of specialist. Of the 384 physicians in the $100,000 group, 116 are psychiatrists. Leading all psychiatrists was Roueen Rafeyan, MD, in Chicago, Illinois, who received $203,936 from Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer, mostly for professional education programs.

The way the rest of the physicians line up are as follows.

Endocrinology 37
Pulmonology 23
Family Medicine 23
Cardiovascular Medicine 19
Urology 19
Obstetrics/Gynecology 16
Allergy and Immunology 15
Neurology 13
Oncology 13
Pain Medicine 10
Pediatrics 10

As the stats from this database indicate, pharmaceutical companies must be into psychiatrists in a way that they are into no other specialty claiming to be a branch of medical science. There is absolutely no way that, as research has shown it does, such connections do not effect a psychiatrist’s private practice. For this reason, we need to keep a vigilant check on this funding, and make sure doctors don’t let profiteering on drug company initiatives cloud their concern for the health and welfare of their patients.

Update 10/24/10

Dr. John Grohol in his World of Psychiatry blog at PsychCentral just published a list of the Top 50 Psychiatrists Paid by Drug Companies in the USA. This list was compiled using the ProPublica database. Included among those top 50 psychiatrists were the top 2 psychiatrists from our above list of Florida psychiatrists in the hire of the drug industry, Rex Birkmire and Lawrence Reccoppa. Dr. Birkmire was way up there in the top 10 of highest paid psychiatrists, coming in at #9, while Dr. Reccoppa was ranked #17.