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Patient Payola

September 7, 2006

Some drug companies pay doctors to find and keep patients for clinical trials.


Putting a price on patients. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Finding patients who qualify for a clinical trial can be tough. That’s why some drug companies and other funders have offered cash bonuses to doctors for finding or keeping volunteers. In a report on the practice, University of Toronto law and medical professor Trudo Lemmens says the incentives can cloud doctors’ judgment.

TRUDO LEMMENS (University of Toronto):
In other words, they may be tempted to push a research subject to participate in research, even when they, in their clinical judgment, feel that their patient would be better off remaining on standard therapy, rather than getting involved in a clinical drug trial, where they may be exposed to an experimental drug or perhaps even to placebo.

Although the incentives have been condemned by the AMA and investigated by the US Inspector General, Lemmens says stricter and clearer regulations are needed to protect patients. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.