Editor’s note:

STAT has retracted the article “How pharma sales reps help me be a more up-to-date doctor,” by Dr. Robert Yapundich. It did not meet our standards.

As a matter of policy, we ask all our contributors to disclose payments from industry and other possible conflicts of interest. In this case, the author disclosed no conflicts other than his affiliation with an organization that supports expanding manufacturers’ ability to discuss off-label uses of drugs. In response to reader questions, we contacted Yapundich and he told us he had received more than $300,000 in recent years from pharmaceutical companies, including one he mentioned in the article. He also acknowledged that his organization was funded in part by pharmaceutical companies. We disclosed that information at the bottom of the article on Tuesday.

We also asked Yapundich to address reader questions about the veracity of the central anecdote in the piece. He said the anecdote was accurate as written.

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But Yapundich later told HealthNewsReview that the anecdote was not, in fact, accurate. After that interview was posted Thursday afternoon, we contacted Yapundich again and he conceded to STAT that the anecdote was inaccurate.

We then retracted the article.

STAT takes these matters seriously and values the trust of our readers. We regret the lapses.

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  • I have been trying to expose doctors being paid $!100,000 to push the drug lupron. It is all there at lupronvictimshub.com. All women need to look this up as it had destroyed women and children. Many have lost their life.

  • My question, to the STAT editors, is why did you wait for the author to admit he lied in his opinion piece? The minute you found out that he did not disclose his conflicts of interest, you should have pulled the article. As you found out: if you lie about one thing, you likely lie on others, but why not pull it at the first lie, and not wait for the second? It’s $100,000s! That’s real money.

  • Is there any reason Dr. Yapundich should not be referred to the NC Medical Board for unprofessional conduct as a result of these lies?

  • Am I to assume you are a rep? You certainly don’t sound impartial.
    Device techs, like pacemaker techs, can be invaluable, yet they are separate from the sales force.
    Sales people simply do not provide unbiased or complete information. If you are buying a TV or a kitchen appliance then 1) caveat emptor and b) the stakes (in health and $) are not as high.
    There certainly exist wrong financial incentives for doctors apart from exposure to reps and I’d like to see these done away with. But they affect some specialties, not all. Healthcare systems generally are happy to sell almost anything they will get paid for. Cleveland clinic and its alternative medicine clinic is but one example.
    I firmly believe doctors should rely on complete and unbiased information. Pharmacy reps have no place in that.

  • A doctor that got paid $332000 by pharma and lobbies for them via his Alliance for Patient Access wants reduced regulations, no way!!!!

    46 drugs/year, and how many of these are relevant to neuroscience (the author’s specialty)? I am sorry, but if you can’t keep pace with less than a drug/week reaching market then you shouldn’t be a doctor. Likewise about keeping pace with scientific progress in your field. If you are too lazy and rely on being fed (biased) info like a child, instead of researching your field yourself using all forms of info/research from all types of sources, then again, you shouldn’t be a doctor.

    I’m a R&D scientist (immunology) at a pharma but this is incredibly disappointing from a personal POV to read such drivel from a practicing physician.

    P.S. it seems this author/doctor is also a little devious (and we should trust them!!!)…”Editor’s note: This article was updated to include Dr. Yapundich’s ties with industry, which were not disclosed to STAT.”

  • The comments about pharmaceutical sales reps on this thread are infuriating. Many responders degrade an entire profession and suggest good doctors don’t need them. It’s as bad as saying lawyers hold no value and the job isn’t necessary. For as many types of lawyers and doctors, there are reps. Also, suggesting reps will sacrifice patient health to sell their product is disgusting. That type of rep is a rare exception. Dishonesty and unethical behavior exists in every profession, including medicine. That doesn’t make it the norm.
    The arrogance.

    • I think a more valid comparison would be to lobbyists or to other salespeople. If their concern is the patient, bring us up to date on ALS. If they want us to know about a drug like Nuplazid, tell of the failed trial and of the limited patient population where it proved to have a modest absolute effect. Reps have an agenda- drug sales.

    • Why is the comparison to attorneys any less relevant? If you are a partner at a one if the best firms in the US, you are expected to sell and you’re bonused on that business. Sales isn’t a dirty word. Most health systems/hospitals like Baylor, Harvard, and the Cleveland Clinic have sales teams growing the referral base for their institutions. The agenda…to get more patients. Why is selling your service or product immediately deemed shady or unethical? I have a lot of examples of where drug/device reps were instrumental in saving lives. You may be generally underestimating the intelligence/competence of one profession and overestimating the same in the other.

    • Lawyers receive specialized training, are licensed and regulated by the state, and subscribe to a code of ethics. None of that applies to drug reps. The job is plainly not necessary. What other profession, filled with people with advanced educations in their field, defends receiving its continuing education from a massive corps of unregulated and untrained salespeople instead of unconflicted leaders in their field?

  • Although drug reps might provide occasional useful information, the fact of the matter is that time spent with them would be better spent using unbiased resources. UpToDate, DynaMed, Prescriber’s Letter, Medical Letter are just a few examples that are readily available (especially if you have an additional $332,000 to spend). The website rxassist.org would get the author access to forms for most if not all available drug manufacturer’s charity programs within 60 seconds. In this age of instant information, there is no valid role for drug salesmen. In our office we used to have drug reps bring in lunch. As one patient commented upon smelling the barbeque, “I hope you enjoy that lunch I’m paying for.”

  • Good commentary from what is likely an open minded physician. Unlike what Gene is saying that physicians are gullible, I put them into an different category. Intelligent. Intelligent enough to get through under-graduate school, med school, and residency. So I believe that physicians can make up their own minds about drugs and drug reps, and not be led into a “common scam”, such as Gene suggests. Time to give physicians some credit in this regard and not blame the “snake oil salesmen.”

    • I didn’t say all physicians are gullible. I said they can’t be eliminated from that category. Unlike you, I don’t paint all doctors with a broad brush. If you think doctors are never susceptible to scams, you are dead wrong. In fact, your comment suggests you are quite gullible on the subject.

  • To think a drug representative is not primarily motivated to sell more of his product, regardless whether it’s appropriate or superior to others, is to live in some kind of fantasy of ones own making. There are a lot of gullible people, as the number of common scams indicate, so certainly doctors cannot be eliminated from that category. The trick is not to open yourself up to that possibility.

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