Drug Companies Paying Doctors to Promote Their Products

A recent study by consumer groups and media outlets has discovered that large pharmaceutical companies are paying doctors handsome sums of money to promote their drugs, some of them for so-called off-label uses which are not approved by the FDA. Doctors may prescribe medications for off-label use but such off-label uses can’t be promoted. The study is limited in scope in that only 7 pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca, Cephalon, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Merck and Pfizer were part of the study. In all likelihood, this means there are more doctors being paid by other pharmaceutical companies to promote their drugs to other doctors.
“Tens of thousands of U.S. physicians are paid to spread the word about pharma’s favored pills and to advise the companies about research and marketing,” the group says in its report.
The report notes that 380 doctors were paid more than $100,000 in 2009-10 to promote the drugs. ProPublica, a journalism group that took part in the study, noted that 250 of the doctors who took money from the pharmaceutical companies had been sanctioned by state medical boards for inappropriately prescribing drugs or having sex with patients.