Doc-payment database details industry ties

Now that drugmakers are disclosing info about their payments to doctors, industry-watchers are crunching that data--and inviting the public to use it, too. ProPublica aggregated the payment disclosures from all seven companies now posting the info on their websites, and now has opened that database to much fanfare. Those seven companies are GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Cephalon.

The overall numbers tell part of the story: More than 17,000 healthcare providers, most of them doctors, accepted payments from the seven disclosing companies since 2009. More than 350 of them collected more than $100,000 during 2009 and 2010, Consumer Reports notes; 43 got more than $200,000, and two doctors collected more than $300,000.

But as usual, there's more to the data than meets the eye at first, and we can expect plenty of follow-up as inquiring minds sort and re-sort that database. A ProPublica investigation, for instance, focuses on the fact that some 250 of the paid physicians had been sanctioned by authorities, and 40 were warned by FDA for misconduct, lost hospital privileges, or were convicted of crimes.

Then there are more specific angles: One news story notes that GSK spent more on speaking fees for Avodart, its prostate drug, than for any other treatment in its arsenal. The Boston Globe found that Harvard Medical School docs and researchers collected 45 percent of the $6.3 million paid to Massachusetts doctors.

- read the Consumer Reports blog post
- see the news from the Boston Globe
- get the ProPublica coverage
- check out the article in the Chicago Tribune
- find the NPR story