The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois filed a federal fraud lawsuit today against a Chicago psychiatrist profiled by ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune in 2009 for his alleged excessive prescribing of antipsychotic drugs to nursing home patients.
An influential U.S. senator is grilling officials in nearly three-dozen states, demanding to know how they are cracking down on physicians who prescribe massive amounts of potentially dangerous prescription drugs.
Iowa Republican Charles Grassley sent letters to 34 states Monday asking what steps they had taken to investigate doctors whose prescribing of antipsychotics, anti-anxiety drugs and painkillers to Medicaid patients far exceeds that of their peers.
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.”
The Chicago Tribune reportedthat drug companies paid more than $25 million to Illinois doctors to promote and use drugs from the pharmaceutical companies. Nearly 40 physicians got payments and perks exceeding $100,000 between 2009 and early 2011.
Eight drug companies paid more than $220 million to doctors and promotional speakers in 2010 to promote their drugs.
Starting in 2013, all drug and medical device companies must report such information to the federal government which will make these disclosures available to the public.
The most controversial payments involve consul
When Daniel Carlat, a psychiatrist in Massachusetts, was flown to New York with his wife by Wyeth, the “training” weekend he attended in a luxury hotel was topped off with a Broadway show. It was early 2001 and he had just agreed to the US pharmaceuticals company’s proposal that he give talks to doctors about its antidepressant Effexor. During the following year, he was regularly paid fees of $750 a time to drive to “lunch and learn” sessions where he would speak for 10 minutes to emphasise the drug’s advantages to fellow doctors, using slides prepared by the company. “It seemed like a win-win,” he recalls. “I was prescribing it, educating doctors and making some money.” But within a few months, he became disillusioned with his co-option as a marketing representative. He was selectively presenting clinical data that put the drug in a positive light to physicians who had been targeted by the company through “data mining” techniques that identified their individual prescription patterns.Dr Carlat has spoken out as part of a growing backlash against such aggressive marketing tactics, which are leading to significant changes in the relationship between doctors and drug companies. But even as pharmaceuticals executives argue that such problems belong to the past and were always exaggerated, they are bracing for both intensifying penalties and calls for further reform.