Thursday, October 21, 2010

ProPublica: Merck Discloses Voluntarily, True -- But. . .

Yet another follow-on piece, from ProPublica -- concerning the conflicted interests that float around practicing doctors acting as highly-paid speakers for pharma marketing campaigns -- explains that we are only seeing a small portion of the payments, at present. That is so because the new health care law mandating such disclosures won't result in universal publication until mid-2013.

The latest piece gives Whitehouse Station credit (and some is indeed due) for making the disclosures it has -- thus far -- voluntarily, and not, strictly speaking, due to a plea agreement with DoJ or a State Attorney General. I should note, however, that both Merck and Schering-Plough are/were subject to such plea agreements, and it is highly likely that Merck's voluntary disclosure won it some credit under its CIA.

In any event, do go read all of the latest ProPublica piece -- here's the bit I mentioned, above:

. . . .[D]ata from all seven companies currently posting payments—AstraZeneca, Cephalon, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly and Co., Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Pfizer—are publicly available in our Dollars for Docs database, which includes payments made in 2009 and 2010.

Of the seven, only two — Merck and GlaxoSmithKline — have done so voluntarily. Another four — plus a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson —have been required to make the disclosures as part of legal settlements with the federal government to resolve lawsuits alleging fraudulent marketing practices.

As we’ve noted, the seven companies together account for about 36 percent of U.S. prescription drug sales. While that’s a sizeable share of the market, it suggests that there are many more payments from other drug companies that consumers don’t yet know their doctors are receiving. . . .

So, I do give Merck some earned credit, here, as it began disclosing voluntarily even before it inherited Schering-Plough's plea agreement, or "corporate integrity agreement" as these settlements are often called in the trade -- but make no mistake, both were looking to put some significant prior bad acts to bed -- with these agreements.

[By the way, the top right image may be easily modified or reused -- with any of the other major pharma wordmarks embedded (I'll even PhotoShop it for you!), if you'll leave a note -- in comments -- requesting the same. I'd be happy to do so -- but it is intended (like all of these images) to be public domain. Take and use.]

No comments: