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Doctors’ ties to drug makers under scrutiny

Conflicts of interest between doctors and pharmaceutical companies may be more widespread that we thought. Dr. Allan Collins acts as president of the National Kidney Foundation and is the director of a government-financed research center on kidney disease. In 2004, the pharmaceutical company Amgen, underwrote more than $1.9 million worth of research and education programs led by Dr. Collins. In 2005, Amgen paid Dr. Collins at least $25,800, mostly in consulting and speaking fees.

One may wonder how this information is public knowledge – it comes from Minnesota records. Minnesota was the first of a handful of states to pass a law requiring drug makers to disclose payments to doctors. These records are a window to widespread financial ties between pharmaceutical companies and the doctors who prescribe and recommend their products.

While there is nothing illegal about doctors accepting money for marketing talks, research shows that doctors who have close relationships with drug makers tend to prescribe more newer and pricier drugs, whether or not they are in the best interests of the patients.

Dr. Collins’s close relationship with Amgen not only places him in scrutiny, but also National Kidney Foundation guidelines under scrutiny. The foundation’s recent guidelines were very pro-industry and should be viewed with great skepticism.

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