Massachusetts releases database of drug company payments to docs

Not so long ago, it was practically impossible to find out  if a doctor or scientist was on the drug maker’s payroll. The concern? Conflicts of interest threatened to inject bias into both research and care.  And, sometimes, they did.  

 So, some universities asked researchers to report outside payments. Public schools might release spotty records. Then, some journals required researchers to reports conflicts of interest. But, for a long time, they journals didn’t share that information with readers.

 Now, as one doctors once put it, we are in the midst of an orgy of disclosure. Most journals and scientific meetings require authors and speakers to disclose industry support. And today, the state released a database of information supplied by drug companies under the state’s physician payment disclosure law.

This comes as drug companies are releasing the information on their own in anticipation of national reporting requirements.  Just a few weeks ago, the journalism shop Pro Publica collected all the company reports into a database and shared it with news outlets nationwide.  The Globe’s story reported that most of the money went to Partners docs.

 Both the Globe and Commonhealth have reports on the data, the latter offering advice on how to use the database to check your own doc.  

 Like any raw data, the information in these reports need a little processing. The Globe offers a bit of that this morning.

The Massachusetts database shows that 5,048 physicians, or about 12 percent of the state’s doctors, received payments.

The physician who got the most, according to a Department of Public Health analysis, is Dr. Mary Ann Asbell, who was paid $194,275 by Genzyme Corp. in Cambridge for unspecified “bona fide services,’’ a category that includes speaking and consulting. She is not currently licensed in Massachusetts, however, according to the Board of Registration in Medicine.

Asbell was not caring for patients, said Genzyme spokesman John Lacey. She was a Genzyme employee who retired in 2007 and has worked as a contractor since then…

The other top recipients were:

■ Dr. Charles M. Gibson, a Boston cardiologist affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, paid $188,617 by six companies.

■ Dr. Stephen John Ferzoco, a general surgeon affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, paid $187,443 by LifeCell Corp., a New Jersey company that sells tissue repair products for use in surgery.

■ Dr. Lawrence M. Dubuske, a former Brigham allergist, paid $153,385 by five companies.

■ Dr. Stephen B. Murphy, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with New England Baptist Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess, paid $149,996 by Wright Medical Technology, a Tennessee orthopedic device company.

Gibson does not think his industry payments were as high as the state reported, a Beth Israel Deaconess spokeswoman told the Globe.  


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