Doctor Payola

An article in today’s New York Times shines some light on drug industry gifts to doctors. Pretty interesting stuff:

Vermont officials disclosed Tuesday that drug company payments to psychiatrists in the state more than doubled last year, to an average of $45,692 each from $20,835 in 2005. Antipsychotic medicines are among the largest expenses for the state’s Medicaid program.

Over all last year, drug makers spent $2.25 million on marketing payments, fees and travel expenses to Vermont doctors, hospitals and universities, a 2.3 percent increase over the prior year, the state said.

The number most likely represents a small fraction of drug makers’ total marketing expenditures to doctors since it does not include the costs of free drug samples or the salaries of sales representatives and their staff members. According to their income statements, drug makers generally spend twice as much to market drugs as they do to research them.


Still, a similar pattern was evident in a Minnesota database that was the subject of a series of articles in The New York Times this year. As in Vermont, psychiatrists earned on aggregate the most in Minnesota, with payments ranging from $51 to $689,000. The Times found that psychiatrists who took the most money from makers of antipsychotic drugs tended to prescribe the drugs to children the most often.

One thought on “Doctor Payola”

  1. $689,000 eh? How much are these data on “payments to psychiatrists” skewed by including all costs for funded research projects? i’m not denying payola schemes and other undue influence but if one lumps in the costs of an entire research project as if it were a direct cash payment to the doctor’s bank account…well that would be another example of journalist lying (i.e., they know the difference and the impact on the average reader) to make a better story.

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