The financial relationships raise questions about the influence of drug companies on prescribing patterns or research results. The practice “puts patients and tax dollars at risk,” said Lee Spiller, the policy director for the Texas branch of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a nonprofit mental health watchdog. “It taints the whole process. I’d hate to think donations were shaping state mental health policy in particular.”
About 48 of the more than 1,730 California doctors who received money from pharmaceutical companies over the past 21 months have been the subject of disciplinary action, a database compiled by the investigative news organization ProPublica found. ProPublica found that the seven drug companies paid $6.7 million to 290 doctors who faced disciplinary action or other regulatory sanctions in various states. San Francisco psychiatrist Karin Hastik, for example, took $168,658 in speaking and consulting fees from Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline since 2009. But in May, the Medical Board of California placed Hastik on probation for negligence, prescribing drugs without prior examination, and failing to keep adequate records about a patient she had been caring for since 2000. Hastik did not return calls for comment.