15 Jul (PHARMALIVE) – Now, let us turn our attention from the bribery scandal in China involving GlaxoSmithKline to Norway, where a cardiologist affiliated with a major hospital has been charged with fraud after buying furniture and going on fishing trips with money from Merck and Pfizer, which made payments for clinical trial work that was supposed to have been sent directly into hospital accounts, Jyllands-Posten reports.
The newspaper reported last month that payments were instead made directly into a private account belonging to Peer Grande. Since 2000, Grande reportedly received more than $300,000 from the drugmakers for overseeing clinical trial work at the hospital. However, a 1999 rules bar doctors from directly receiving money from the pharmaceutical industry.
The Merck Sharpe & Dome unit in Europe, for instance, transferred at least $150,000, at today’s rates, from July 2009 to October 2012 to an account in a Danish Bank. About $20,000 was used for salmon fishing trips and furniture, the paper now reports. The disclosures prompted Rigshopsitalet to publicly commit to bolstering its oversight.
“We are looking at all the protocols to see if they are working as they should,” Rigshospitalet’s spokesperson Jannik Hilsted told Jyllands-Posten. “After a case like this, what we are focusing on is whether pharmaceutical companies are paying money in accordance with the hospital’s rules for the external financing of clinical trials, and if the money is being placed in the right accounts.”
The episode comes to light as the issue of payments to doctors gains added attention in the US. Next month, a new law goes into effect requiring drugmakers to gather and, later, report financial ties to physicians on accessible web sites. Known as the Sunshine Act, the law emerged as the result of a US Senate investigation into whether payments unduly influence medical research and practice (see this).
Grande, by the way, initially denied the allegations and told the paper that “I have no private bank account where I get money from” Merck (MRK). But when confronted the following day with evidence that such payments were made, he hung up the phone. The paper adds that he ran six trials for AstraZeneca (AZN) since 2005, but the drugmaker says payments were made into the correct account (read more here). He has accepted consulting fees, however (look here).
We asked Merck and Pfizer (PFE) for comment and will update you accordingly. [UPDATE: A Pfizer spokesman sends us this: “Pfizer Denmark has systems and controls to ensure that we comply with Danish legislation and regulations. We will investigate any cases which would indicate that Pfizer or Pfizer employees do not comply with them.”]