Senate scrutinizes drug company educational grants

A congressional investigation of the money drug companies give as supposed educational grants has found that payments are growing rapidly and are sometimes steered by marketing executives to doctors and groups who push off-label prescribing of drugs, The New York Times reported. Twenty-three drug makers spent a total of $1.47 billion in 2004 on educational grants, or an average of $64 million per company, according to the Senate Finance Committee. That number was a 20% increase from the total in 2003, which was $1.23 billion. According to the newspaper report, the committee did not estimate what percentages of those grants were instead used for marketing purposes. In a letter sent to Johnson & Johnson and other drug makers, the committee suggested that the use of educational grants to further marketing aims was widespread in the industry, the report said. The committee also sent letters to most other major drug makers last week seeking more information about their use of educational grants.