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Propriety of doctors’ paid talks questioned

Nov 15, 2010 6:52:00 PM - thestate.com
The pharmaceutical industry funneled nearly $3 million to South Carolina doctors in 18 months, prompting concerns over whether the cash payments influence physicians’ prescription writing.

The data, compiled by national investigative news organization ProPublica, shows the payments of $258 million that seven drug companies made to doctors across the country between January 2009 and June 2010.

While the payments are legal, critics charge that they are unethical, creating a conflict of interest that could cause doctors to ramp up prescriptions for drugs they are paid to hawk during speaking engagements.

“Their decision to prescribe a drug becomes influenced by money instead of which drug is the most effective, least dangerous or least expensive,” said Sidney Wolfe, director of the Health Research Group of Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer watchdog group in Washington, D.C.

Local doctors say the paid talks are necessary forums for educating their colleagues on new medicines that could help patients.