(OpEdNews) – “Unlimited spending! Schedule all the programs you can.” That was the management directive announced at the regional business meeting I attended when I first became a pharmaceutical rep. When I heard the announcement I felt like I was on an Enron train that was roaring down the tracks, and the company expected everyone to be on board. The company was giving its sales force unlimited funds to hire physicians as paid speakers, sometimes to influence other physicians to prescribe the company’s drugs, at other times to simply financially reward physicians who wrote high volumes of prescriptions every month for the company’s drugs.
Former Merck regional sales manager, Gene Carbona, told the New York Times that the only thing the company considered when selecting physicians to provide presentations was “the volume or potential volume of prescribing that the doctor could do.” This is true of all pharmaceutical companies. According to The Wall Street Journal (August 31, 2009), Eli Lilly alone paid physicians $22 million dollars in just the first quarter of 2009.
The higher a physician is on the influential ladder, the greater the financial rewards to be reaped. Pharmaceutical companies pay influential leaders who can sway public opinion and influence research. And the area of medicine receiving the greatest amount of pharmaceutical money is psychiatry. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the most drug industry financially supported medical association. In July 2008, Senator Charles Grassley’s demands that the APA provide an accounting of its finances revealed that in 2006 the pharmaceutical industry accounted for about 30 percent of the APA’s financing; more than $20 million dollars. Read More Here