Medical educators in Pennsylvania received at least $10 million from drug companies in 2009

Conflict-of-interest allegations aside, several Pittsburgh-area doctors and nurse educators are insisting that their work is not compromised despite data showing they were paid roughly $3.5 million by four pharmaceutical companies last year, reports the Pittsburgh Business Times. The four companies--Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Merck--also were found through analysis by the Times to have given $10 million to medical educators throughout Pennsylvania in 2009. 

"People think we get up there to push this drug or that drug," Dr. Anthony Gentile, a gynecologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told the Times. Gentile, who was paid nearly $90,000 by three of the four companies--more than any other doctor in the southwestern portion of the state--called such allegations "hogwash," and said his presentations merely mention the paying companies' drugs as ones to consider for patients. 

"We educate, and that's what I have a big passion for," Gentile added. 

Overall, Eli Lilly disclosed paying medical professionals $1.51 million for 2009, while Pfizer admitted to paying $1.29 million in the second half of 2009 to doctors and nurses. Glaxo and Merck paid such professionals more than $680,000 combined for last year's second through fourth quarters. 

Dr. Philip Pizzo, dean of Stanford University's School of Medicine, has a difference of opinion with Gentile, saying that doctors speaking about certain drugs are more likely to prescribe those drugs. "Those are often the most expensive drugs," Pizzo told the Times. "They may raise the cost of care or result in inappropriate care. Prescriptions should be based on evidence, not marketing." 

To learn more:
- read this Pittsburgh Business Times article
- check out this other related Business Times piece