In a sweeping investigation of doctors paid by leading pharmaceutical companies to promote their drugs, the nonprofit ProPublica has found that hundreds have been accused of professional misconduct, lacked credentials or have been disciplined by state boards. Some lost their jobs or their license to practice. Yet many were paid up to several hundred thousand dollars to educate other physicians.
It’s not news that doctors and other specialists are hired by pharmaceutical companies to teach their peers about the uses and benefits of various drugs — for one thing, they tend to be better trusted than the average drug sales rep, and a single successful drug can bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for its maker.
Doctor-consultants speak at conferences, give lectures in hospitals or confer with their peers over industry-funded dinners. Many take their role as teacher very seriously, interviews by ProPublica reporters reveal, and often their service is a boon: in rural communities, where primary-care physicians are expected to give specialized care but haven’t got the time to keep up with the latest research, educational tours by industry-paid specialists can be key to good care.