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Dollars for Docs Mints a Millionaire
Drug payments » New data show drugmakers’ payments to hundreds of thousands of doctors, and some have made well over $500,000.


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But as the drugs lost their patent protection, their makers have tried to shift the market to newer drugs in their stables. Critics say these new drugs are not appreciably different, but the drug companies claim they are easier to take or have fewer side effects.

Johnson & Johnson, for example, lost its Risperdal patent in 2008 but now markets Risperdal Consta, a long-acting injection, and Invega, another antipsychotic. AstraZeneca lost Seroquel but is now marketing Seroquel XR, which works for an extended period.

At a glance

Utah doctors paid $25.8 million by drug companies

Drug companies have made $25.8 million in payments to Utah doctors since 2009 for research, consulting, travel and entertainment — a common practice, the scope of which is only now becoming clear and causing uneasiness in medicine.

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The pressure to reclaim sales is great. Overall, the market for antipsychotics dropped from $18.5 billion in 2011 to $13.7 billion last year, according to IMS Health, which closely tracks the industry’s ups and downs.

The newer drugs, like their predecessors, need someone to explain their benefits, several doctors said.

"I actually enjoy the aspect of educating my counterparts about developments in the field," said Dr. Gustavo Alva, a California psychiatrist.

Alva has received $663,751 for speaking and consulting since 2009 for the companies in Dollars for Docs. He separately discloses speaking for other companies as well.

Tighter restrictions on speaking and consulting mean doctors will be less up to date on new treatments, according to several current physician speakers.

Psychiatrists aren’t always among the highest-paid. In 2010, when Dollars for Docs first launched, endocrinologists represented 11 of the 43 top money-making speakers. From year to year, the in-demand specialists are largely a function of the market.

But critics say psychiatrists are a particular concern because of their controversial role when the first waves of new antipsychotics hit the market.

AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly have paid billions in settlements to the federal government over allegations that they paid doctors to push these drugs for unapproved uses from children to seniors with dementia. One lawsuit alleged that a Florida psychiatrist switched patients from drug to drug based on his relationships with companies.


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Texas psychiatrist Jain acknowledges the excesses of the past and said he does not excuse them. But he said he sees real value in the new brands because they give psychiatrists options if their patients are not responding to older drugs.

He said he has recently spoken on behalf of Forest’s antidepressant Viibryd, Merck’s antipsychotic Saphris, Lilly’s ADHD drug Strattera, Pfizer’s antipsychotic Geodon and its antidepressant Pristiq.

Having the financial support of drug companies does not lessen the value of this teaching, he said.

Jain’s tally in Dollars for Docs does not reflect his work with another group that is heavily sponsored by drugmakers.

Jain, top-paid speaker Draud and Maletic all serve on the advisory board and steering committee of the U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress, which will hold its annual convention in Las Vegas in September and October. Maletic is the 2013 program chairman.

The convention receives financial support from several drug companies, and some of its presentations are sponsored by the firms, according to information on its website. Much like professional medical societies, the congress also collects fees for drug company ads on things attendees see at their conventions, from tote bags to hotel room keys.

The congress is owned by North American Center for Continuing Medical Education, LLC, a for-profit New Jersey company that provides continuing medical education courses. Health professionals must take such classes periodically to retain their licenses. Draud, Jain and Maletic also teach classes for the company.

In response to written questions, Randy P. Robbin, president of the company, said members of the steering committee have "demonstrated experience and expertise in mental health and commitment to providing the highest quality education possible."

The trio are paid for their work for the congress, but the money does not come from pharmaceutical sponsors, Robbin said. In continuing medical education courses, he said, drug companies don’t have a say in the educational content or speaker selection.

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