LCSN: Drug companies spend $300,000 on Las Cruces doctors, practices

March 15, 2013. Retrieved online March 18, 2013 from Lindsey Anderson, Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – More than two dozen Las Cruces practitioners have received research funding, speaking fees, consulting fees, meals or travel expenses paid for by pharmaceutical companies, according to a database compiled by nonprofit investigative journalism group ProPublica.

The national database is part of the group’s “Dollars for Docs” project, which has examined the funds pharmaceutical companies spend to enlist doctors in research, speaking and more.

Companies expended more than $300,000 to Las Cruces medical practitioners from 2009 to 2012, a minimum number as some companies don’t disclose spending and some merely disclose spending ranges.

About half of the Las Cruces payments were for research, a third for speakers and the rest for consulting, meals and travel, following national trends found by ProPublica.

Speaking fees are what have prompted the most concern nationwide as doctors are seen as credentialed endorsers of drugs, treatments or devices. Local doctors say pharmaceutical funding for research helps companies develop drugs and their uses and gives patients access to treatments that might have been out of their reach.

AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly sponsored most of the big-ticket Las Cruces items, spending tens of thousands of dollars on speaking fees and research.

Eli Lilly alone spent more than $150,000 on speaking fees, research, travel, consulting and meals for four local doctors from 2009 to 2012.

Public data on these paid speakers help consumers make decisions on pharmaceuticals, said New Mexico State University associate professor Bruce Huhmann, chair of the College of Business’s ethics initiative.

“It’s like advertising,” Huhmann said. “You know celebrities are getting paid for their endorsements … so you say, ‘I’m going to take that (ad) with a grain of salt.”

But with doctors paid to praise medications or devices, “If you don’t know (they’re being paid), you don’t know how to discount that information,” he said.

Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article

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