On behalf of the United States Senate Committee on Finance, who controls funding for Medicare and Medicaid, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote a letter to drug giant Pfizer yesterday requesting that it disclose any payments and/or gifts it has given over the past year to doctors at Harvard Medical School.
The letter came as a swift response to an article published on March 2 in The New York Times, detailing the increasing disgruntlement of more than 200 Harvard med students over their faculty’s ties to the drug companies, including Pfizer (from whom 149 faculty members receive funding or perks) and Merck (130). A separate Times article the same day also recounted an incident of a Pfizer employee taking cell phone pictures—apparently to share with Pfizer—of Harvard students as they demonstrated against drug company influence on their campus.
Grassley’s letter specifically requested:
1) A detailed account of payments and/or benefits of any kind that your company has given to the 149 Harvard faculty members mentioned in The New York Times article, and any other unreported Harvard doctors receiving payments. The time span of this request covers January 1, 2007 through the date of this letter. For each doctor receiving payments, please provide the following information for each payment:
a. Name and title of doctor,
b. Date of payment,
c. Payment description (CME, honorarium, research support, etc),
d. Amount of payment, and
e. Year end or year-to-date payment.
2) Any communications to include emails, faxes, letters, and photos regarding Harvard medical students demonstrating and/or agitating against pharmaceutical influence in medicine. The time span of this request covers January 1, 2008 to the present.
A Pfizer spokesperson has assured The New York Times that the company will fully comply with Grassley’s requests. Since Harvard does not keep detailed records of drug company payments and perks to its doctors (though 1600 of the 8900 professors and lecturers have reported financial ties to businesses related to their research, teaching or practice) it would be great to get this information from each and every one of the companies its faculty deals with.