Hundreds of doctors with spotty reputations are being handsomely paid by pharmaceutical companies to promote and lecture about their drugs, according to a nationwide analysis.
The investigative reporting group ProPublica found 250 doctors paid by drug companies had sanctions filed against them in 18 states. The misconduct ranged from providing poor care, inappropriately prescribing drugs and even having sex with patients.
More than three dozen received FDA warnings for research misconduct, had lost hospital privileges or were convicted of crimes. At least 20 more have had two or more medical malpractice judgments or settlements against them.
A Georgia appeals court in 2004 upheld a hospital's decision to remove anesthesiologist Dr. Donald Ray Taylor from its staff. He had admitted giving young female patients rectal and vaginal exams without documenting why.
"Maybe I am a pervert, I honestly don't know," he said when confronted by a hospital official, according to the court ruling.
Nonetheless, Taylor was the third-highest-paid speaker for Cephalon, receiving $142,050 in 2009 and another $52,400 through June of this year, ProPublica reported.
The report also highlighted the case of Pennsylvania doctor James I. McMillen.
In 2001, the US Food and Drug Administration ordered McMillen to stop "false or misleading" promotions of the painkiller Celebrex, saying he minimized risks and touted it for unapproved uses.
Still, three other drug makers have paid the rheumatologist $224,163 since 2009 to deliver talks to other physicians about their drugs, ProPublica reported.
"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?'' said Dr. Joseph Ross, an assistant professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine who has written about the industry's influence on physicians.
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