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Murky Relationships between Doctors and Pharmaceutical Companies Exposed

53-year-old Dr. Peter Gleason was arrested last March for promoting Xyrem for medical purposes other than those approved by the US government.//

When this news hit headlines in the US, many felt that the long overdue exposure of murky financial relationships between doctors and pharmaceutical companies would finally happen.

Dr. Gleason has admitted to earning over $100,000 last year from Jazz Pharmaceuticals through conducting seminars, delivering speeches, and visiting fellow doctors in their offices to promote the narcolepsy drug Xyrem. However what makes Dr Gleason’s case so peculiar is that he had been promoting Xyrem as a drug to be prescribed for depression and as a pain reliever.

This case has only called attention to the need to ascertain whether it was ethical for a doctor to accept rewards or money from a pharmaceutical company in exchange for prescribing or promoting its products, casually or by design.

In January a group of prominent American doctors had issued a sweeping call for reform in the medical profession saying that “doctors shouldn’t accept drug samples, junkets or even ballpoint pens from drug or medical-device companies.”

According to Dr. Gleason, who is now free on bail and continues to practice medicine, he is not guilty of conspiracy and that t he was charged only after his refusal to help the government build a case against the drug’s maker, Jazz Pharmaceuticals which seem to be a sequence of events that court documents seem to support.

On his part Dr. Gleason freely acknowledges he advocated Xyrem as a treatment for many conditions, including depression and fibromyalgia in meetings with other doctors. He claimed to believe everything he said about the drug and that his right to express his views are protected by both F.D.A. rules and the First Amendment.

An assistant F.B.I. director was reported as comparing Dr. Gleason to a “carnival snake-oil salesman.”
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