Disciplined docs turn up on Pfizer payroll

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

New Scientist’s Peter Aldhous and Jim Giles created an interesting mash-up of two popular health stories, disciplined caregivers and conflicts of interest, by matching a set of Pfizer disclosures on payments to doctors and researchers in 2009 with discipline records from the FDA and the country’s most populous states. They found 26 matches on the state level and four from the feds, matches which accounted for about one in every 50 Pfizer-paid doctors in the states they’d investigated.

They assembled a number of anecdotes for the story, but the most telling related to a physician who was disciplined for faulty research related to a Pfizer drug, yet still paid by the company to lecture on it.

Other Pfizer experts ran into trouble during their research. Among them is Thomas Gazda of Scottsdale, Arizona, who was paid to lecture about Geodon after being reprimanded by the FDA over irregularities in his conduct of a trial of the same drug’s use in children and adolescents with bipolar disorder – one of whom was given more than the maximum allowable dose for five days. The FDA had earlier told Pfizer to exclude Gazda’s data from the results submitted by Pfizer during its efforts to win approval to use the drug for this purpose.

AHCJ has extensive resources for folks looking to do both sides of the mashup, with tips for investigating conflicts of interest from John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and recommendations for looking into disciplined caregivers from ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber.

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