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Psychiatrist explains why he speaks on behalf of drug makers

A follow up now to a story we brought you last week about doctors who get paid by drug makers to give promotional talks. The top three earning doctors in the Northwest did not return our calls for that story. But later a psychiatrist in Tacoma did. And he makes no apologies for accepting pharmaceutical payments.

Dr. Richard Schneider is a board certified psychiatrist with more than forty years experience. According to data from ProPublica, a non-profit investigative news outlet in New York, Dr. Schneider has made nearly $130-thousand since 2009 speaking on behalf of Eli Lilly. But he’s been doing this work for more than a decade. Dr. Schneider remembers his first paying gig. It was 1999 and the drug was Zoloft. Dr. Schneider says he was already prescribing the drug to his patients.

Richard Schneider: “I used Zoloft, I believed in Zoloft. All they were asking me to do was to point out the indications and the advantages and disadvantages of Zoloft.”

Dr. Schneider started out on what you might call the dinner circuit. He gave promotional presentations to other doctors over meals at restaurants. He remembers one evening in particular.

Dr. Schneider: “One restaurant with four meeting rooms all filled with different medications being promoted.”

Soon he was giving talks on behalf of several pharmaceutical companies – and eventually specialized in one-on-one meetings with rural doctors. Work he thought had tremendous value. Critics say speaking fees from drug companies can influence a doctor’s prescribing patterns – in effect turning a physician into a marketing tool. But Schneider doesn’t see it that way. This psychiatrist doesn’t believe his prescribing behavior has been affected consciously or subconsciously.

Richard Schneider: “I was receiving money at one time or another from virtually every product that I prescribed so it wasn’t a matter of I’m going to be influenced by I’m big in this particular area.”

One line Dr. Schneider will not cross: he says he doesn’t buy stock in pharmaceutical companies. As for the speaking fees, he says this year the work has mostly dried up. He theorizes that’s because there are not many hot, new psychiatric drugs on the market.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

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Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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