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Some Lilly-paid docs sport spotty records

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Eli Lilly and Co. paid more than $102 million last year and early this year to physicians for talking up Lilly drugs to other doctors. Yet 88 of the doctors Lilly pays have been sanctioned by state medical boards and another four had received a warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for research misconduct.

Those are the findings of a data analysis by ProPublica, a New York-based investigative journalism organization. The story is based on data from seven pharmaceutical companies making payments to 17,000 doctors.

Every company had money going to at least some doctors with blemishes on their records.

ProPublica’s report begins with the story of a Lilly-paid doctor, William Leak, who was found by an Ohio medical board to have performed unnecessary nerve tests and invasive procedures. The board voted in 2008 to revoke Leak’s license, yet Lilly has paid him more than $85,000 in speaking fees since 2009.

A spokesman for Indianapolis-based Lilly told ProPublica the company was unaware of the cases and is now investigating them.

“They are representatives of the company,” said Dr. Jack Harris, vice president of Lilly’s U.S. medical division. “It would be very concerning that one of our speakers was someone who had these other things going on.”

Lilly began reporting its payments to physicians on its Web site in 2009. It was the first pharmaceutical company to do so.

Lilly spent far more than any of the other six pharmaceutical companies on physician speaking fees during the five quarters of data analyzed by ProPublica. The next largest spender, United Kingdom-based GlaxoSmithKline plc, spent $87 million during the five quarters.

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