Glaxo, Pfizer Report Doctor Payments

The financial relationships between the <"">drug and <"">medical device industries and doctors have caused enormous 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. In response to the ongoing outcry, 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 attempted to curb doctor payments and the gifts and perks doctors can receive.

In an effort to increase transparency, drug giants Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) just published payments made in 2010 to physicians and researchers in the United States, said PharmaTimes.

Pfizer said data covering “interactions with nearly 200,000 healthcare professionals” showed $177 million paid out, with $108 million that “reflects work conducted with nearly 1,000 research organisations and academic medical centres” and supported “critical clinical trial activities including patient recruitment, coordinating and conducting the trials, and complying with legal and regulatory requirements,” quoted, PharmaTimes.

About 4,600 speakers were hired by Pfizer “to educate their peers about health conditions and the safe and appropriate use of Pfizer medicines” each being paid about $7,400; another 1,400 who “provided input and advice to Pfizer to ensure the company addresses the needs of clinicians and patients” received about $6,200 each, said Pfizer, quoted PharmaTimes. Pfizer also paid $18 million for meals, typically provided in physician offices by sales reps; $5.8 million in travel expenses; and $1.7 million on “educational items,” according to Pfizer, reported PharmaTimes.

PharmaTimes noted that the disclosures agreed with a $2.3 billion settlement Pfizer made with the federal government in 2009 in response to allegations it marketed its anti-inflammatory drug Bextra (generic: valdecoxib) inappropriately, explained PharmaTimes.

GSK said it paid $56.8 million for speaking or advisory fees to 5,331 healthcare professionals and has, since 2009, reduced U.S. payment limits for these fees to $100,000 annually, down $50,000 from the prior year, said PharmaTimes. Of $85 million paid in 2010, $28.5 million was to institutions assisting with cardiovascular and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, macular degeneration, and renal and other cancer research, said PharmaTimes, which noted that payments were for 127 studies with 595 separate “lead researchers or principal investigators.”

We recently wrote that another study highlighted potential pitfalls when doctors maintain close financial ties with drug and medical device makers. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, said most doctors who served on panels charged with writing heart treatment guidelines have financial relationships with companies that market medical products. The study authors contended that even when such potential conflicts-of-interest are disclosed, bias can still occur. “Improper bias in the clinical practice guidelines can have a potentially more widespread adverse effect on patient care than individual practitioners’ conflicts of interest,” the study said.

Under new U.S. healthcare legislation, all drug makers must collect uniform information on physician payments in 2010, publishing the data in 2013; right now, disclosures are voluntary, noted PharmaTimes.

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