Prolific antipsychotic prescribers have industry ties

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.

California Watch’s Christina Jewett compares a list of that state’s top antipsychotic prescribers reimbursed by state Medicaid (obtained through Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa) to ProPublica’s database of educational and speaking fees pharmaceutical companies have paid to doctors.

Not surprisingly, she finds matches. Of the top 10 prescribers, Jewett writes, “Three of them accepted $20,000 or more in educational or speaking fees from the company that makes the drug they prescribe to Medi-Cal patients.” Of those, the most remarkable are a duo who share an office near San Diego:

Samuel Etchie prescribed Seroquel more than 1,000 times in 2009 at a cost of $449,000 to the state, according to Medi-Cal records collected by the ProPublica news organization and provided to California Watch. The drug’s maker paid him $25,350 this year to speak to health professionals.

Etchie did not return two calls to his office.

John Allen, who shares an office with Etchie, was among the state’s top prescribers of Zyprexa, also an antipsychotic drug. Allen dispensed 418 prescriptions at a cost to the state of $346,569. This year and last, the drug’s maker, Eli Lilly and Co., paid him about $27,000 to educate other medical professionals.

The icing on the cake? A quote from Allen:

“I think it’s unfortunate that there’s an implication in articles that we’re robots for drug companies,” Allen said. “We have to have our own experience with medications and find out what works best. We’re not 5-year-olds in front of TV watching cereal and toy commercials.”

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