Sunday, January 30, 2011 by: Tony Isaacs, citizen journalist
Being found guilty of criminal activity or professional misconduct might ordinarily result in curtailed opportunities and income, but such has not been the case with hundreds of disciplined doctors on the payrolls of Big Pharma. Doctors who’ve been sanctioned, fined, suspended and even convicted of crimes have found their misdeeds to be no obstacle when it comes to raking in big money as drug company speakers, consultants, educators and drug trial overseers.
An examination by the ProPublica news agency of seven pharmaceutical companies’ payment records in 30 states found 292 disciplined doctors who earned a collective $7.1 million in 2009-2010 alone. Accusations against the doctors included serious medical mistakes, sexual misconduct, and excessive use of addictive drugs. Seventy of the doctors had been sanctioned multiple times or by more than one state. Twenty-one of them had three or more strikes against their records.
Since the investigation excluded over 60 pharmaceutical companies and 20 states, the total number of disciplined doctors on Big Pharma’s payroll is sure to be much higher. In addition, not all doctors properly report their drug company incomes – as Colorado Public Radio found when it reviewed the ProPublica data and discovered that at least 84 Colorado physicians did not disclose their drug company contracts.
Among the disciplined doctors were:
*a Long Island psychiatrist who spoke on behalf of a Pfizer’s antipsychotic drug even though his New York medical license was suspended in 2001 and he was placed on probation for five years for helping supply the narcotic drug Vicodin to six patients who were drug addicts.
*a Texas psychiatrist disciplined in 2000 after being accused of improperly prescribing drugs to several patients, including one who died of an overdose. The doctor’s website indicates he has given more than 1,300 presentations on stress disorders.
*two Orlando-area urologists who pled guilty in 2001 to conspiracy to sell the prescription drug Lupron without complying with FDA regulations: they received almost $200,000 from Glaxo between 2009 and 2010.
*a Phoenix family doctor specializing in HIV who was the most highly sanctioned doctor. He was disciplined five times between 1996 and 2009. In the most serious case, numerous male patients accused him of sexually victimizing or violating them.
*a cardiologist whose license was suspended in New York and New Jersey last year after he pleaded guilty to one count of criminal sexual contact in 2008.
A previous New York Times investigation in 2007 found that in Minnesota alone at least 103 doctors, who had been disciplined or criticized by the state medical board, received a total of $1.7 million from drug makers between 1997 to 2005. The median payment over that period was $1,250; the largest was $479,000.