Pfizer Inc. has disclosed its payments to doctors for the first time.
In Pennsylvania, the payments suggested that "[p]harmaceutical company money continued flowing to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center doctors last year, despite a restrictive two-year-old policy designed to limit drug company influence, and reflecting the struggle academic medical centers face in distancing doctors from drug companies," the Pittsburgh Business Times
reports. Overall, Pfizer paid about $20 million "to 4,500 doctors and other medical professionals nationwide during the last six months of 2009. The company also paid $15.3 million to 250 academic medical centers for Pfizer-sponsored research."
"The drug industry defends such payments as a legitimate way for doctors to learn about prescription drugs. But critics say manufacturers' money can influence prescribing practices, turning doctors into product sales channels at the expense of patients. … Disclosure of industry payments to doctors has been spotty and difficult to track, but drug and medical device companies will be required to release the names of doctors who receive payments starting in 2012 as part of the new federal health care reform law" (Mamula, 4/9).