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New data posted on payments from drug and device makers to providers

Massachusetts public health officials have published online the latest list of payments from drug and medical device makers to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals, and other health care providers.

The data includes $64 million in payments from hundreds of companies in 2010 for speaking, consulting, food, educational programs, marketing studies, and charitable donations. The largest portion of payments -- $30 million - went to physicians.

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It’s hard to compare 2010 data to that for prior years -- the department previously published data for only the second half of 2009 -- but even so, payments appear to have fallen. They totalled $35 million for six months in 2009.

The reasons for the drop are unclear. But a number of hospitals, including Partners HealthCare, which oversees Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s, have placed strict limits on the work doctors can do for pharmaceutical and device companies. Partners prohibited its physicians from participating in promotional drug company speakers bureaus as of January 2010, out of concern that physicians could lose their objectivity.

The health department began collecting payment data from drug companies several years ago, as required by a 2008 state law that also bans most gifts from companies. Legislators have said the regulations are intended to control costs by reining in unnecessary prescribing of expensive drugs and to make doctors’ potential conflicts of interest transparent to the public.

In 2010, Sanofi-Aventis US gave the most money, paying 427 recipients $4.7 million. Most of that total went to the Joslin Clinic to develop books, brochures, and videos about managing diabetes for primary care doctors across the country and their patients, said Joslin Spokesman Jeffrey Bright. Clinic staff produced the materials for Sanofi-Aventis and then delivered it to the company to distribute, he said.

The company makes the top-selling diabetes drug Lantus. Bright said the materials produced do not promote the company’s drugs. “We are very vigilant about that here,’’ he said.

The physician listed as receiving the most money from companies in 2010 was Stephen B. Murphy, a Boston orthopedic surgeon, who earned $456,000 from implant-maker Wright Medical Technology Inc. of Tennessee. Murphy, who works at New England Baptist Hospital, said the money was for royalties for inventing minimally-invasive hip surgery techniques and instruments. Wright owns or leases Murphy’s patents on his inventions.

Massachusetts General Hospital brought in more money than any other recipient -- $6.2 million -- from dozens of manufacturers for educational programs, consulting, conferences and as charitable donations.

Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at
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