Edith Baker of Plainville faced a devastating reality that patients with advanced cancer inevitably confront. She had stopped responding to conventional treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy could no longer contain her stage 4 bladder cancer. But there was a ray of hope. Baker’s oncologist at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center referred her to a clinical trial at UConn Health involving two immunotherapy drugs: the FDA-approved Keytruda (pembrolizumab) from Merck & Co., credited with successfully treating former President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma; and Epacadostat (IDO1 inhibitor), an experimental drug from Incyte Corp.
Dozens of Connecticut doctors accepted six-figure payments from drug and medical device manufacturers in 2015 for consulting, speaking, meals and travel, with six of the 10 highest-paid physicians affiliated with academic institutions, new federal data show. The top 10 doctors – less than 0.1 percent of the 11,000 who received payments – took in $3.6 million, or nearly 15 percent of the total $24.9 million paid out. Among them is the dean of the Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Robert Alpern, who received $445,398 in 2015 from two companies – Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie – in consulting fees, meals and travel expenses for serving on the boards of both companies. In 2014, he received $458,194 from the two companies. The Yale medical school began a research partnership with AbbVie in 2013, after the pharmaceutical company spun off from Abbott Laboratories.
Yale researchers are exploring whether certain medications, including one sold to help smokers kick the habit, can help heavy drinkers reduce the amount of alcohol they consume. Yale School of Medicine is conducting a clinical trial to see whether those who frequently drink heavily and also smoke cigarettes find it easier to cut back on their drinking while taking varenicline. The drug, sold under the brand name Chantix, is marketed to help smokers quit but could also potentially help heavy drinkers drink less, according to lead researcher Stephanie O’Malley, a psychiatry professor at Yale. For many, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol “kind of go together, hand in hand,” she said. “Many people, when they drink they want to smoke.”
Previous studies, including one by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have found that Chantix does help reduce drinking for those who want to cut back, she said.
In 2010, as state health officials were investigating allegations that Dr. Gerson Sternstein of Berlin was overmedicating patients, three pharmaceutical companies were showering thousands of dollars on the psychiatrist for meals and speaking engagements. Some of the payments continued even after his license was suspended in August 2010.