Patients with Multiple sclerosis face a number of potential complications from the drug Tysabri including progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) a potentially fatal brain problem. Patients trying to decide whether or not take this drug apparently are deviled by the question of their doctor’s conflict of interest. As this patient found out her physician who presumably had her best interest at heart, was also taking funding from the manufacturer of the very expensive medication that he recommended, Tysabri.
Where I live, a state law mandates that payments any doctor receives from a drug company be reported to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, which enters it int a public database.
When I looked up my neurologist, what I found was damning. He had received more than $300,000 from drug companies between 2006 and 2008. (The 2009 data weren’t yet available.) Major contributors to this sum were Biogen, the manufacturer of Tysabri and the sponsor of the clinical trial my neurologist suggested to me early on, and Teva Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Copaxone. In addition to many payments for acting as a speaker from these companies, my neurologist also had been compensated for “promotional/marketing consulting services.”
Medicynical Note: $100,000 here, $100,000 there, soon we’ll be talking real money. It’s difficult for me to believe that this money didn’t in some way influence the doctor to recommend the medication and influence that patient to participate in a trial of the medication. Often in such trials, the more patients recruited the higher the payments.