Pfizer Pays Out Millions to Doctors

Pfizer, the world's biggest drug company, says it paid 4,500 doctors and other medical professionals about $20 million total in professional fees for services like consulting and speaking on behalf of the company, in just the last six months of 2009. During the same period, Pfizer also paid $15.3 million to 250 academic medical centers and other research groups for clinical trials. The payments to medical professionals were required by an agreement the company signed last August to settle a federal investigation into the illegal promotion of drugs for off-label use. Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline made similar disclosures. As part of the new health care reform legislation, starting in 2012, makers of drug and medical devices will have to disclose any payments greater than $10.00 made to doctors, with the first reports becoming available in 2013. The provision is called the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. Eric G. Campbell, lead author of a 2007 study of physician-industry relationships published in the New England Journal of Medicine said, “I think it’s a good thing to do, but I put absolutely no trust in what drug companies voluntarily disclose to the public when those things are unaudited.” Campbell said drug companies were making the disclosures to try and get ahead of a rising tide of public opinion in favor of disclosure.