Big Pharma likes rent-a-docs who know how to be bad


An Oct. 18 article entitled Docs on Pharma Payroll Have Blemished Records, Limited Credentials on the investigative journalism site ProPublica describes how the leading pharmaceutical companies seem to have a penchant for paying huge sums of money to doctors with questionable professional histories to peddle their drugs.


"Drug companies say they hire the most-respected doctors in their fields for the critical task of teaching about the benefits and risks of their drugs," the article says. "But an investigation by ProPublica uncovered hundreds of doctors on [drug] company payrolls who had been accused of professional misconduct, were disciplined by state boards, or lacked credentials as researchers or specialists." Some had even lost their medical licenses.


"Without question the public should care," the article quotes Dr. Joseph Ross, a Yale Medical School professor who has written about industry influence on physicians. "You wouldn't want your kid learning from a bad teacher. Why would you want your doctor learning from a bad doctor ... who hasn’t displayed good judgment in the past?"


The problem, of course, is that the doctors only get invited to speak — and to pocket big fees for doing so — if the companies feel the physicians are willing and able to successfully promote their products, as determined by whether the other doctors attending the presentations prescribe more of the drugs afterward. This leads them to seek out rent-a-docs who promote the drugs they are presenting in exchange for the speaking fees, and further invitations to future "pay to say" events.