Even though it is illegal to pay kickbacks to doctors, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are paying $2 billion in general payments to 618,000 physicians each year, in addition to another $600 million a year to teaching hospitals, according to a ProPublica database.
General payments cover promotional speaking, consulting, meals, travel, gifts and royalties, but not research, as shown in its Dollars for Docs database.
The 10 drugs for which companies spent the most in payments to physicians in 2015 — many of which are targets of mass tort litigation — were:
- Blood thinner Xarelto ($28.4 million). In Re: Xarelto Products Liability Litigation in Philadelphia, hundreds of plaintiffs charge that the blood-thinning drug caused gastrointestinal bleeding, hemorrhagic strokes or death.
- Rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira ($24.9 million)
- Diabetes drug Invokana ($20.9 million). The Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (JPMDL) has created new MDL 2750 for Invokana (Canagliflozin) Products Liability Litigation in New Jersey.
- Hepatitis C drug Viekira ($19.2 million)
- Blood thinner Eliquis ($18.8 million). Bristol-Meyers Squibb Company and Pfizer Inc. have filed a motion to create new MDL No. 2757 in New York to hear Eliquis (Apixaban) products liability litigation.
- Diabetes drug Bydureon ($18.5 million)
- Testosterone drug Androgel ($15.3 million). US District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly has set June 5, 2017, for the start of first of six AbbVie bellwether trials in MDL 2545, in the Testosterone Replacement Therapy Products Liability Litigation in the Northern District of Illinois.
- Thyroid drug Synthroid ($14.7 million)
- Synthetic hormone Lupron ($14.3 million)
- Diabetes drug Victoza ($11.9 million).
“We’ve shown that physicians who receive payments from the industry tend to prescribe more brand-name drugs than those who don’t. Several academic studies later had similar findings. We also recently reported that companies continue to work with thousands of doctors who have received disciplinary sanctions against their licenses,” ProPublica states.
The disclosures included in Dollars for Docs were required under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, a part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
For example, Janssen has paid $106 million to 141,294 doctors in connection with Xarelto, Invokana, Risperdal and many other drugs. From August 2013 to December 2015, Janssen paid:
Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism