Saturday, June 09, 2007

Choosing Doctors for Clinical Trials

Here's something to give you a warm fuzzy feeling about your favorite medical or psychiatric drug:

The New York Times published an article entitled "After Sanctions, Doctors Get Drug Company Pay" about their investigation which found more than 100 doctors who had been disciplined or criticized by a medical board but who, nonetheless, were paid by drug companies to conduct clinical trials or to promote certain drugs. Altogether, drug makers were found to have paid $1.7 million from 1997 to 2005 to 103 doctors who had been cited by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice.

The sanctions by the board ranged from reprimands to demands for retraining to suspension of licenses. Of those 103 doctors, 39 had been penalized for inappropriate prescribing practices, 21 for substance abuse, 12 for substandard care and 3 for mismanagement of drug studies. A few cases received national news media coverage, but drug makers hired the doctors anyway.

The reason that Minnesota was singled out is that Minnesota is the only state to make its records publicly available. So what is going on in the rest of the country?

Here's one example: The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice accused Dr. Faruk Abuzzahab of a “reckless, if not willful, disregard” for the welfare of 46 patients, 5 of whom died in his care or shortly afterward. The board suspended his license for seven months and restricted it for two years after that.

His response? Dr. Abuzzahab dismissed the findings as “without heft” and said drug makers were aware of his record. He said he had helped study many of the most popular drugs in psychiatry, including Paxil, Prozac, Risperdal, Seroquel, Zoloft and Zyprexa.

Well, doesn't that give you confidence in the accuracy of the drug trials for those drugs? Heck, they must be safe and effective, just look at these success stories of their use: SSRI Stories.

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