As part of its plan to promote its anti-cholesterol drug Vytorin, Merck and Schering-Plough paid 16 physicians, 14 of whom hold academic appointments, more than $450,000 for consulting and giving talks, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. In this article, the Chronicle lists the physicians and the money they received. US Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) now has written a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins to say that he is "troubled" by this matter and that he would like an explanation. In particular, Grassley points out the case of Baylor College of Medicine's Christie Ballantyne, who received $34,472 and has received NIH grants for cardiovascular studies, but whose earnings were not disclosed by Baylor.
With 10 other letters, Grassley is also investigating the health IT industry, reports the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog. Here Grassley is looking into complaints about electronic medical systems. He asked 10 companies to provide him with "complaints and/or concerns" that they have received as well as sample legal language from their contracts to determine whether the companies impose "'gag orders,' which prohibit health care providers from disclosing system flaws and software defects." According to the Health Blog, 3M, Allscripts, Cerner, Cognizant, Computer Sciences, Eclipsys, Epic Systems, McKesson, Perot Systems, and Philips Healthcare all received letters.