Tainted Records Revealed for Doctors on Drug Company Payrolls

An investigation by nonprofit investigative journalism group ProPublica uncovered hundreds of physicians on big pharmacy company payrolls that lacked credentials as researchers or specialists, were disciplined by state boards, or faced allegations of professional misconduct.

Physician licensing records in the 15 most populous states and three others showed sanctions against more than 250 doctors, including some of the highest paid promotional speakers in the field. Their misconduct included poor care, inappropriate drug prescriptions, and even sex with patients.

At least 45 of the highest-paid doctors who earned more than $100,000 for promoting brand name drugs to their peers did not have board certification in any specialty. Others had not published research or held academic appointments.

In one disturbing example, the FDA ordered Pennsylvania doctor James McMillen to stop "false or misleading" promotions of the painkiller Celebrex, saying he minimized risks and touted it for unapproved uses. Still, leading drug makers paid McMillen more than $224,000 to speak to other physicians about their drugs.

Dr. Joseph Ross, an assistant professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine is quoted, saying, "Without question the public should care...you would never want your kid learning from a bad teacher. Why would you want your doctor learning from a bad doctor, someone who hasn't displayed good judgment in the past?"

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