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Academic Docs Kept Speaking On Big Pharma's Dime, Despite Bans

Some top med schools and academic medical centers haven't followed through on their public commitments to curtail the pharmaceutical industry's influence on their faculties.

Stanford University i

Stanford University Wikimedia Commons hide caption

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Stanford University

Stanford University

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Our friends at ProPublica combed their database of drug companies' disclosures to check up on the schools' performance and turned up quite a few violations.

Stanford, which made a big deal a few years ago, of forbidding speaking gigs paid for by drugmakers had some high-profile scofflaws. For instance, Dr. Alan Yeung, vice chairman of Stanford’s department of medicine and chief of cardiovascular medicine, earned $53,000 from Eli Lilly last year and the first half of 2010. Child psychiatrist and professor emeritus Hans Steiner was paid $109,000 by Lilly, too.

The basic problem for these speaking gigs remains company control. ProPublica rounds up the drugmakers' policies on the talks and they require the experts to use company-prepared materials. ProPublica also found problems at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Pennsylvania and University of Colorado, Denver.

Ahead of the ProPublica story, Stanford's medical dean Dr. Philip Pizzo sent out another warning to faculty:

I am fully cognizant that changes of the type we have witnessed in academic-industry relations and related conflicts of interest take time to disseminate and also to result in changes in behavior and activity. But ... there have been a lot of prior communications about the policies at Stanford and many stories in the lay and medical press about the problems associated with physicians serving in marketing roles. This is unacceptable, certainly for anyone with a Stanford title.

Stanford also got dinged earlier this year for taking a Pfizer grant of $3 million to improve doctor training, a move that  Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, who runs the project PharmedOut, called "self-satirizing" at the time.

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