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In articles, most MDs mum on pay

Bloomberg News / September 14, 2010

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MINNEAPOLIS — Fewer than half of the physicians who received $1 million or more in consulting fees from medical device companies including Johnson & Johnson, Stryker Corp., and Biomet Inc. in 2007 disclosed the financial ties in subsequent articles they wrote about the industry, a study shows.

Investigators analyzed a database of payments from J&J’s DePuy unit, Stryker, Zimmer Holdings Inc., Biomet, and Smith & Nephew, and cross-referenced their findings with disclosures on medical journal articles written by the top-paid consultants, according to a report released yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study focused on 40 orthopedic surgeon researchers who were given at least $1 million from a single company and another who received that much from two companies. The biggest payout was $8.9 million.

Harvard, Columbia, and Stanford medical schools are among the universities that have increased reporting requirements for faculty members who consult with drug and medical device companies, in light of concerns about conflicts of interest.

J&J, Pfizer Inc., and Medtronic Inc. are among the companies that say they disclose payments to physicians.

“The system is broken if you can’t follow million-dollar payments to physicians by companies, and that’s the situation,’’ said David Rothman, senior author of the paper.

The doctors published 95 articles related to the companies in 2008, the year after their payments, including studies and analyses designed to influence patient care, the report said.

Fewer than half of the studies disclosed the payments. Only seven publications gave information about the sums, all stating the author got more than $10,000.

It’s not clear if the doctors failed to disclose their fees or if the journals decided not to publish the information, Rothman said. The study raises questions about the quality of research.

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