What would you call a doctor who “violated the protocols of every study he led that [the FDA] audited?”

Or a doctor who was criticised by a medical board “for writing narcotics prescriptions for patients he knew were using false names, a violation of federal narcotics laws?”

Or a doctor who “repeatedly prescribed narcotics and other controlled substances to addicts, renewing one patient’s prescriptions six weeks after the patient was jailed and telling another that his addictive pills should be thought of as ‘Hamburger Helper.'”?

Or a doctor who “prescribed narcotics to pregnant patients, one of whom prematurely delivered a baby who soon died.”?

I would say that calling this doctor a CHARLATAN would be justified!

Yet, according to a New York Times story, this doctor, whose name is Dr. Faruk Abuzzahab, has been repeatedly hired by several pharmaceutical companies to do clinical trials and make marketing presentations:

“Takeda, a Japanese drug maker, confirmed that Dr. Abuzzahab was doing a study financed by the company on its sleep medicine, Rozerem. Eisai, another Japanese drug maker, said that although Dr. Abuzzahab had signed a clinical trial agreement with the company to study its Alzheimer’s drug, Aricept, it told him two days after a reporter asked for comment on the case that he was not qualified to be an investigator. And at AstraZeneca, for which Dr. Abuzzahab said he had performed clinical trials and still gave drug marketing lectures, a spokesman said the company was ‘concerned’ about Dr. Abuzzahab’s disciplinary record.”

And Dr. Abuzzahab is not the only charlatan to receive drug company money to do research and marketing:

“The Times’s examination of Minnesota’s trove of records on drug company payments to doctors found that from 1997 to 2005, at least 103 doctors who had been disciplined or criticized by the state medical board received a total of $1.7 million from drug makers. The median payment over that period was $1,250; the largest was $479,000.”

This is only the tip of the iceberg!

Dr. David Rothman, president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University, said the Times analysis revealed a national problem. “There’s no reason to think Minnesota is unique,” Dr. Rothman said.

“Clinical trial investigators must be culled from only the finest physicians in the country,” he said, “since they work on the frontiers of new knowledge. That drug makers are scraping the bottom of the medical barrel is an outrage.”

Outrage indeed!

What do drug companies, their trade association, and the FDA have to say?

Drug makers refused to comment, said they relied on doctors to report disciplinary or criminal cases, or said they were considering changing their hiring systems. “We have our own internal processes for dealing with these matters, which are under way,” said Jim Minnick, an AstraZeneca spokesman. [Isn’t that what they said at the start of the Pink Cupcake Caper?]

[Here’s the clincher!] Gene Carbona, who was a Merck regional sales manager with 12 years experience in drug sales, said the only thing the company considered when hiring doctors to give marketing lectures was “the volume or potential volume of prescribing that doctor could do.” He also said that had he known that a doctor had a disciplinary record for excessive prescribing, “I would have been more inclined to use them as a speaker.”

Karl Uhlendorf, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the trade group would not comment on The Times’s findings.

Asked about the Minnesota analysis, the deputy commissioner and chief medical officer of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Janet Woodcock, said the federal government needed to overhaul regulations governing clinical trials and the doctors who oversaw them. [Oh God! Not another FDA system that needs overhauling! Will they ever do their jobs and stop using these stories to make a case for more and more money? Enough already!]

Heaven help us, because when charlatans control the testing of drugs, we are definitely screwed!

Again, I call upon the pharmaceutical industry to reveal the grants it gives to individual physicians to do research and the fees they pay to individual physicians for consulting (see “Dollars for Docs: More Scrutiny Needed“). Name the names.

I hope that other states follow Minnesota’s lead in making medical board sanctions against physicians publicly available.

Let’s see the entire iceberg before it’s too late to adjust the drug industry’s course and the entire clinical trial ship sinks!