A trip to Paris in September 2006 cost Dr. D. Gray Heppner nothing. GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s largest drug manufacturers, paid $7,800 for the lieutenant colonel and chief of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s Department of Immunology to attend the company’s symposium on malaria.
It was Boston in May for John W. Szabo. Medical device manufacturer Cardinal Health paid $5,000 for Szabo, then chief of the Pharmacy Service at the U.S. Army Health Clinic at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, to attend a leadership conference in 2002. The year before, Szabo went to a diabetes conference in Austin, Texas, and GlaxoSmithKline paid the bill through an unrestricted grant, totaling more than $1,000.
Trips to Tampa Bay and Austin in 2000 for Peter Bulatao were paid for by drug-makers Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline. Bulatao, then chief of the Department of Pharmacy at Lyster Army Community Hospital, in Fort Rucker, Ala., sat on the committee responsible for selecting drugs for the hospital.
These were among 8,700 trips by Department of Defense personnel paid for by the health care industry — at a cost of more than $10 million — from 1998 through 2007, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. In a joint project with Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, the Center examined 22,000 travel disclosure forms filed by DOD personnel, and found that the medical industry was by far the biggest sponsor of free travel, accounting for about 40 percent of all trips. The sponsors included not only drug and device makers but also health foundations and trade groups often funded by those companies.