Glaxo Paid Doctors $15 Million Before Promised End to Fees
by Oliver Staley
June 30, 2015 — 6:47 PM BST
Updated on July 1, 2015 — 4:09 AM BST
GlaxoSmithKline Plc paid U.S. doctors about $15 million in 2014 to promote and learn about its products, showing little change from the previous year even as it works to end most payments to physicians by 2016.
The total includes consulting and speaking fees, as well as meals and travel for thousands of doctors. The largest consulting payment — $195,000 — went to Joseph Goldstein, a professor of biomedical research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, according to Glaxo’s figures.
Glaxo, the U.K.’s biggest drugmaker, said in 2013 that at the start of 2016 it would end its practice of paying doctors to speak on its behalf or attend conferences. The changes are among reforms implemented by Chief Executive Officer Andrew Witty in the wake of a federal investigation into Glaxo’s sales and marketing practices. The company agreed to pay $3 billion in a settlement.
“We expect overall payments to continue decreasing as we continue to implement our new approach to working with health-care professionals,” Sarah Alspach, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. That includes “stopping direct payments to external health-care professionals to speak on our behalf about our medicines by 2016.”
In 2014, Thomas Yunger, a pulmonologist in Dayton, Ohio, was the highest-paid speaker for Glaxo, with $75,450 in speaking fees and $10,853 for consulting, travel, food and beverage. Yunger couldn’t be reached for comment, and Goldstein declined to comment.
The fees are contained in a Glaxo report on all payments to outside doctors, which totaled $36.4 million. More than half went to the University of Rochester in New York as part of a royalty agreement.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released similar data from all drugmakers Tuesday, part of an effort to improve transparency stemming from the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Glaxo first posted its 2014 data on its website in April.
Pfizer Inc., the biggest U.S. drugmaker, reported at least $53.3 million in 2014 non-research outlays to doctors. Merck & Co. paid at least $27.5 million, and AstraZeneca Plc spent at least $72.5 million.
Glaxo’s report also includes $498,010 paid to Daniel Podolsky, a board member who is president of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The sum includes his compensation, expenses and benefits, Alspach said.
To replace its current doctor-payment system, Glaxo will have “digital, personal and real-time applications” in place by the start of 2016 to provide information to medical professionals, Alspach said.
In its 2012 agreement with the U.S. government over sales and marketing practices, Glaxo also said it would continue a program to stop compensating sales representatives based on the volume of drugs they sold. The program, started in 2011 and called Patient First, is under review to find ways it can be simplified, the company told U.S. sales employees in April.
Glaxo promoted Jack Bailey in February to replace Deirdre Connelly as head of its struggling operations in the U.S., the U.K. company’s biggest market.
“We are absolutely committed to our sales compensation model, and are confident that it is the right thing to do for our business and for patients,” Alspach said.