Note from CCHR: The reason why we repeatedly see psychiatrists on the list of top drug prescribers is pretty simple. It’s so easy to prescribe psychiatric drugs to patients. Think about it. It’s not like cancer or diabetes, or even high cholesterol where there’s a test to show some disease or imbalance requiring “medication” to treat it. Sure there are medical conditions that may not have a “test” to prove anything is wrong. There are some. But there are no tests to prove anyone has a mental disorder. Not one. So psychiatrists can make a killing when it comes to writing unnecessary prescriptions. Literally. All while raking in the bucks from Pharma.
San Diego Union Tribune – December 8, 2010
By Christina Jewett
Three San Diego doctors who prescribe medications at the same time they are paid by drug companies as experts on the products figure into a broader national debate about whether playing both roles poses a conflict.
California Watch, a project of the independent, nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting, compared two sets of data at the center of the debate — one a database of payments by drug companies to doctors nationwide and the other a list of the top antipsychotic prescribers in California’s Medi-Cal program for the poor and disabled.
Among California’s top prescribers, three accepted more than $20,000 in educational or speaker’s fees from the company that makes the drug they prescribe to Medi-Cal patients. All three practice in San Diego County.
Accepting drug company payments and then prescribing the products to patients is not illegal or even unethical, in and of itself. But some inside the profession and out are concerned such marketing could induce over-prescription of drugs or otherwise corrupt the process.
Two of the San Diego-area psychiatrists share a La Mesa office — Samuel O. Etchie and John W. Allen.
Allen was among the state’s top prescribers of Zyprexa, an antipsychotic drug. Allen dispensed 418 prescriptions at a cost to the state of $346,569. This year and last, the drug’s maker, Eli Lilly and Co., paid him about $27,000 to educate other medical professionals.
Allen said he conducts speeches about Zyprexa for Lilly based on information contained in the FDA-approved literature that comes with the drug. He said he speaks for a variety of drugmakers if he has done research and treated patients with the medication.
“I think it’s unfortunate that there’s in implication in articles that we’re robots for drug companies,” Allen said. “We have to have our own experience with medications and find out what works best. We’re not 5-year-olds in front of TV watching cereal and toy commercials.”
Allen said the prescribing numbers reflect the many bipolar and schizophrenic patients he treats in his practice. He said he prescribes a wide variety of medications, new and old.
“Whatever works for the patient is most important,” Allen said.
Etchie, who shares and office with Allen, prescribed Seroquel more than 1,000 times in 2009 at a cost of $449,000 to the state, according to Medi-Cal records collected by the Pro Publica news organization and provided to California Watch. The drug’s maker paid him $25,350 this year to speak to health professionals.
Etchie said he’s been paid by drug companies to give talks for about 10 years, and sees it as a way to keep himself informed about new and approved uses for medications and to share that information with colleagues who may be too busy to keep track of the research themselves. He said his presentations on Seroquel are an overview of the research drugmaker AstraZeneca has given the FDA about the medication.
“Whatever I do in the area of medicine, I want to get paid,” he said. “But my motive in doing this is to keep my knowledge base current and then to pass on that information to colleagues. Whether a doctor prescribes a medication or not is none of my business. I’m not a salesman.”
The third San Diego-area doctor is Harinder Grewal, a child psychiatrist who sees patients throughout the county.
According to Medi-Cal records, she issued nearly 3,000 prescriptions for antipsychotic medications in 2009, half of them for the drug Seroquel. This year AstraZeneca, that company that sells the drug, paid her $21,600 to educate other health workers.
Grewal did not return calls from California Watch or The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Grewal was also among the state’s top prescribers of the antipsychotic medication Geodon. That drug’s maker, Pfizer, spent $3,750 to compensate Grewal for leading an educational forum.
The three doctors showed up on a list provided by Medi-Cal officials to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who is reviewing prescribing rates of psychiatric and pain medications nationwide.
Grassley’s investigation comes on the heels of numerous government lawsuits that have accused pharmaceutical companies of illegally marketing drugs beyond their approved uses. California authorities who provided the information to Grassley’s office warned against viewing the data as a sign of wrongdoing.
Read the rest of the article here: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/dec/06/paid-drug-experts-also-prescribe-products/