Health Care

Mass. Doctors Get Millions For Drug Promotion

By Liz Kowalczyk   |   Monday, October 18, 2010
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Oct 19, 2010

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The Harvard name is unrivaled in education, but the brand has also been a powerful tool for marketing drugs.
Find out if your doctor is taking payments from drug companies.

Pharmaceutical companies seeking to promote their products have relied heavily on Harvard Medical School physicians, according to an analysis of all publicly reported industry payments to doctors. Of the $6.2 million paid to Massachusetts physicians during 2009 and 2010, about half went to Harvard faculty, mostly for talks to other doctors through company speakers bureaus.

Harvard officials said they had no idea how common speaking for drug companies has been among their doctors. But all of that is coming to end. A large component of the Harvard system -- Brigham and Women's and Massachusetts General Hospitals -- prohibited their physicians from speaking as of Jan. 1 of this year, and the rest of Harvard will follow suit this coming January.

Doctors like cardiologist Amjad Almahameed, who pulled in at least $120,000 during this period speaking for drug companies, and psychiatrist Dr. Brent Forester, who made $73,000, are resigning from speakers' bureaus, which could have a significant impact on drug companies' abilities to promote their drugs to doctors here, not to mention doctors' own personal income.

Many doctors defended their work for industry, saying they felt they were doing good by educating doctors about complicated diseases and medications.


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