Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Drug firms have to stop paying doctors -

Drug firms have to stop paying doctors -

Drug industry critics celebrated last month when Pro Publica announced a new searchable database called "Dollars for Docs."

No longer will worried patients have to rely on reporters to expose doctors on the payroll of the drug industry. Now patients can do it themselves. With a few simple keystrokes, anyone with a computer can search the "Dollars for Docs" database to see how much money their doctor is getting from pharma.

For decades pharmaceutical companies have given doctors gifts and money as ways of getting them to prescribe their drugs. During the flush 1990s, companies began ramping up these gifts dramatically -- entertaining doctors at expensive restaurants, sending them to conferences in exotic locations, even writing checks disguised as "unrestricted educational grants."

Money is not the only incentive here. The drug industry can transform doctors into academic stars. Drug companies may offer physicians authorship on journal articles, make them investigators on clinical trials, promote them in the media and fly them around the country to give lectures and conference presentations.

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