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Friday, May 29, 2009

Drug Companies Bedazzle Docs in the Boondocks with Gifts, Free Lunches, and Speaking Fees!

A new West Virginia state report shows drug manufacturers gave thousands of gifts and payments to doctors and nurses in West Virginia last year, ranging from the cost of a lunch to outlays of $20,000 or more (see "Report: Drug Companies Spend Thousands on W.Va. Gifts").

I'm from NYC, so forgive me for referring to West Virginia as "the boondocks." The state only has 5,152 doctors and nurse practitioners who can prescribe medicine. But here's a synopsis of the drug company money spent on wooing them:
  • 15,382 gifts, grants or payments
  • 42 payments of $20,000 or more
  • 574 payments of $2,500 or more
  • 14,808 payments between $100 and $2,500
Unfortunately, the report didn't track payments made to each prescriber nor did it give a total amount, so it's difficult to get an average spent per prescriber. But I can always speculate!

Let's start with those 42 payments and estimate that these totaled $1,000,000 (ie, average payment of $23,809). That's probably a conservative estimate.

I assume the 574 payments of $2,500 or more does not include the 42 payments of $20,000. Let's estimate these total $3,000,000 (average payment equals $3,484).

I'll estimate the the average payment in the 14,808 group was $203 (a pretty low-ball estimate, IMHO) so that the total in that group is $3,000,000.

My estimate for the total is $7,000,000 worth of gifts, free lunches, grants or payments. That's $1,359.00 per prescriber, including PAs who -- I am sure -- received bupkis.

If we estimate that 10% of the 5,152 prescribers were PAs who received no gifts, that leaves $7,000,000 divided among 4,637 physicians or $1,510 per physician.

But drug companies do not waste their money on low decile physicians or on physicians in rural areas that are hard and expensive to travel to. Plus, so many physicians these days do not even open their doors to sales reps.

So I would estimate that only half of West Virginia physicians (ie, 2,319 physicians) received the total of $7,000,000 in gifts, free lunches, grants or payments, or $3,019 per physician!

Not too shabby for the boondocks! I wonder what NYC physicians get these days?

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