Drug and Device Makers Pay Thousands of Docs with Disciplinary Records - Physicians whose state boards have sanctioned them for harming patients, unnecessarily prescribing addictive drugs, bilking federal insurance programs and even sexual misconduct nonetheless continue to receive payments for consulting, giving talks about products, and more, by Jessica Huseman, in ProPublica.
Pharmaceutical and medical device companies are continuing to pay doctors as promotional speakers and expert advisers even after they’ve been disciplined for serious misconduct, according to an analysis by ProPublica. One such company is medical device maker Stryker Corp.
In June 2015, New York’s Board for Professional Medical Conduct accused orthopedic surgeon Alexios Apazidis of improperly prescribing pain medications to 28 of his patients. The board fined him $50,000 and placed him on three years’ probation, requiring that a monitor keep an eye on his practice. Despite this, Stryker paid Apazidis more than $14,000 in consulting fees, plus travel expenses, in the last half of 2015.
Stryker also paid another orthopedic surgeon, Mohammad Diab of San Francisco, more than $16,000 for consulting and travel, even though California’s medical board had disciplined him for having a two-year-long inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient, whose two children he also treated. He was suspended from practice for 60 days, required to seek psychological treatment and given seven years’ probation. He is still required to have a third party present while seeing female patients.
ProPublica reviewed disciplinary records for doctors in five states, California, Texas, New York, Florida and New Jersey, and checked them against data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on company payments to doctors. That included payments for things like speaking, consulting, education, travel and gifts, but not for meals, as these often don’t reflect a formal relationship between companies and doctors. (You can look up your doctors using our Dollars for Docs tool. We’re currently working on adding 2015 data.) All told, the analysis identified at least 2,300 doctors who received industry payments between August 2013 and December 2015 despite histories of misconduct.
Johnson & Johnson paid Dr. Michael Reiss of New Jersey $85,000 for consulting through its pharmaceutical arm Janssen in December 2015. He’d just regained full use of his medical license that August; it had been suspended since 2012 because he’d pleaded guilty in federal court to hiding $2.5 million from the IRS in Swiss bank accounts.
When reached by phone, Reiss said Janssen had performed a background check, but couldn’t recall whether his disciplinary history had come up as part of his interview process. “Apparently it wasn’t an issue, they hired me,” he said. Reiss said he’s retired from practice aside from his consulting work, but declined to say what this consists of or whether he does work for Janssen or any other company.