Harvard’s ethical ultimatum to doc: give up Big Pharma moonlighting jobs, or lose Harvard teaching post


Boston physician Dr. Lawrence DuBuske was given a choice: either stop moonlighting as a paid speaker for pharmaceutical companies, or quit your job at a top Harvard University teaching hospital. To the surprise of some, DuBuske, an allergy and asthma specialist, will resign from Brigham and Women’s Hospital after two decades there, the hospital told the Boston Globe last month. As a result, Harvard will also terminate his appointment.

DuBuske (that’s him on the left with his Ukrainian-born wife Ilona, who coincidentally works for DuBuske’s home-based Immunology Research Institute of New England) is no ordinary speaker. Out of thousands of doctors hired by drug giant GlaxoSmithKline to help market its products, he was the highest paid during a three-month period last year, according to GSK disclosure statements.  He made $99,375 for giving 40 talks to other physicians last April, May, and June.  That’s almost one every other day.

DuBuske seems to be everywhere, with recent speaking stops spread from Boston to Buenos Aires, Poland, and Russia. Six other pharmaceutical companies also use him as a speaker, and he is a consultant for a half dozen drugmakers, according to information he disclosed while teaching continuing medical education courses.

The disclosures did not mention how much he was paid for all this other work.  It does make one wonder how on earth does he have any time left over to be a real doctor?  

But DuBuske’s extensive speaking for these drug companies is now in direct violation of a strict new conflict-of-interest policy for the Partners HealthCare hospital network, which includes the Brigham.

Cardiologist Dr. Steven Nissen, head of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation said: 

“It’s a shocking story. There are physicians earning so much money [from drug companies] that they would give up their jobs. Normally, you’d give up the [drug company] honoraria.’’

Mary Anne Rhyne, U.S. director of media relations for GSK, confirmed that DuBuske is a national speaker for the drug company, earning about $2,500 per talk. The company picks the topic and content of the talks in the speakers bureau program, she said.

Ironically, Rhyne said she is not sure whether DuBuske will be as much in demand as a speaker without the prestigious Brigham and Harvard titles.

“A lot of things would go into a decision about that. Most of all, we’re looking for people who are well respected.’’

Read more on this in the Boston Globe report.

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5 thoughts on “Harvard’s ethical ultimatum to doc: give up Big Pharma moonlighting jobs, or lose Harvard teaching post

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  2. Wait a sec. This guy has a “home-based” academic institute run by his young blonde trophy wife from The Ukraine? Sounds like a really bad B-movie… I’m thinking of setting up my own home-based “institute” now too.

  3. Good article, Carolyn. Harvard has also been in the news lately – they are not exactly blameless in tolerating their employees’ partnerships with drugmakers. Money talks.

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