Doctor Steps Down To Keep Drug Company Paycheck

Lawrence M. DuBuske, a physician from Boston, had to choose between a flourishing career at a renowned Harvard teaching hospital or being paid to speak for <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">pharmaceutical companies. According to Boston.com, Dr. DuBuske chose to remain with Big Pharma. Dr. DuBuske, an allergy and asthma specialist and Harvard Medical School instructor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, will be stepping down from his post there at month end, said Boston.com.

DuBuske was the highest paid speaker over a three-month period in 2009, reported Boston.com. Speaking for GlaxoSmithKline, DuBuske made $99,375 for some 40 talks to other doctors from April through June, speaking about once every other day, said Boston.com. Speaking internationally with stops in Boston, Buenos Aires, Poland, and Russia, said Boston.com, DuBuske works for six other drug makers.

A choice had to be made. DuBuske’s industry speaking engagements are a violation of the Partners HealthCare Hospital network’s—Brigham is included in the network—conflict-of-interest policy, explained Boston.com. DuBuske, whose appointment will be terminated when he leaves, worked at the hospital for over 20 years, noted Boston.com.

’’There are physicians earning so much money [from drug makers] that they would give up their jobs,’’ said Dr. Steven Nissen, head of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. “It’s a shocking story. Normally you’d give up the [pharmaceutical company] honoraria,’’ Dr. Nissen added, quoted Boston.com.

According to director of Partners’ Office for Interactions with Industry, Christopher Clark, when the policy went into effect this January 1, another physician—from McLean Hospital—also resigned, said Boston.com. The policy bans physicians from participating in speakers’ bureaus, according to Boston.com. Partners Healthcare hospitals also include Massachusetts General.

The financial relationships between the medical industry and doctors have caused controversy in recent years. Critics have long held that such relationships create conflicts-of-interest, and could unduly influence everything from research findings to prescribing practices. Over the past several years, states, medical schools, medical societies, and other entities have passed regulations requiring doctors to disclose their financial relationships with drug and device makers. Some have even tried to curb the gifts and other perks doctors can receive from medical firms.

The Partners Healthcare rules prohibit high-ranking doctors and executives from receiving stock or unlimited fees for sitting on the boards of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Pay for attending outside board meetings is limited to $500 per hour, or $5,000 for a 10-hour board meeting, said Boston.com previously. Executives and high-level physicians are completely banned from taking company stock as compensation. The new policy also bans doctors from traveling the country as paid members of drug company “speaker’s bureaus.’’ The new rules affect 25 vice presidents, clinical department heads, and other top executives who are directors for some of the nation’s leading drug companies, the Globe said previously.

The policy has been implemented in stages. Other rules include a ban on gifts and free meals from drug and device makers. Free drug samples are also not allowed. Instead, such samples must be provided through a hospital pharmacy or another central mechanism. Sales reps are no longer able to visit staff unless they have “written invitations defining the purpose and terms of visits.” According to the Boston Globe, the Partners Healthcare policy is similar to what many other teaching hospitals have implemented; however, the rules limiting compensation for sitting on company boards goes further than anything set by similar institutions.

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