Drug Company Payments to Doctors—To Whom, How Much and for What?

ProPublica, a nonprofit enterprise that conducts investigative journalism in the public interest, continues to build its database of medical industry payments to medical professionals and health-care institutions. It’s a fine resource for anyone seeking to know the extent of the medical back-scratching that used to occur only outside the bright glare of transparency.

As we explained a few months ago,“Dollars for Docs” tracks payments from drug companies to care providers for things like speaking fees and drug promotions. As explained on the ProPublica website, thanks in part to a legal settlement, these sweet deals now must be posted on company websites. As of this writing, 12 companies are participating. By federal law, all companies must make these reports by 2013, and the information will appear on a government website.

ProPublica’s database is updated regularly. Consumers can mine information about their physicians, their state or other topics that can signal science-advancing research or potential conflicts of interest.

Here are a few things we found recently about company payments to doctors in Maryland:

  • From the first to second quarters of 2011, Cepahlon paid Dr. Mohamed Al-Ibrahim of the SNBL Clinical Pharmacology Center of Baltimore $1,498,675 for clinical research.
  • From the second to fourth quarters of 2009, GlaxoSmithKline paid Dr. Ralph V. Boccia of Bethesda $129,400 for speaking fees.
  • From the first to second quarters of 2011, Cephalon paid Dr. Bruce Cheson of Rockville $11,133 for travel expenses.

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