Medical Board of California officials say they plan to investigate whether drugmakers’ payments have inappropriately influenced doctors who prescribe psychiatric medication to children in California’s foster care system, the San Jose Mercury News reports (de Sá, San Jose Mercury News, 11/24).
A recent investigation found that drugmakers between 2010 and 2013 paid more than $14 million to California doctors who treat children in the foster system in the form of:
Meal and travel reimbursements; and
Overall, drugmakers made payments to 908 California physicians in that time, more than half of whom prescribed psychiatric medication to foster children. The investigation found that such physicians received on average more than double the payments made to other types of physicians in California (California Healthline, 11/24).
Details of Medical Board’s Plan
The Medical Board’s plan comes after Consumer Watchdog sent a letter urging the licensing agency to broaden its investigation of physicians who might be overprescribing psychiatric drugs.
Carmen Balber, executive director of advocacy group, said, “The conflict of interest is clear in these cases, and we think that action is long overdue.”
Medical Board of California Executive Director Kimberly Kirchmeyer said state law does not prohibit doctors from accepting payments from pharmaceutical companies. However, she said such payments might constitute “unprofessional conduct.”
Kirchmeyer said the board will seek to determine whether the physicians who receive payments from the pharmaceutical industry are:
Prescribing medication independent of drugmakers’ persuasion; or
Prescribing medication to support drugmakers.
According to the Mercury News, the medical board already began looking into the practice after an earlier investigative report found that about 25% of children in the state’s foster system are prescribed psychiatric drugs (San Jose Mercury News, 11/24).