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Charles Ornstein

Senior Editor

Photo of Charles Ornstein

Charles Ornstein is a senior editor at ProPublica, overseeing the Local Reporting Network. From 2008 to 2017, he was a senior reporter covering health care and the pharmaceutical industry.

Prior to joining ProPublica, he was a member of the metro investigative projects team at the Los Angeles Times. In 2004, he and Tracy Weber were lead authors on a series on Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, a troubled hospital in South Los Angeles. The articles won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service.

In 2009, he and Weber worked on a series of stories that detailed serious failures in oversight by the California Board of Registered Nursing and nursing boards around the country. The work was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

He previously worked at the Dallas Morning News, where he covered health care on the business desk and worked in the Washington bureau. Ornstein is a past president of the Association of Health Care Journalists and an adjunct journalism professor at Columbia University. Ornstein is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

Doctors Dine on Drug Companies’ Dime

Hundreds of thousands of doctors have accepted free meals from pharmaceutical companies that invite them to scientific or educational sessions. At least 20 physicians accepted more than $2,000 worth of meals from one company last year, ProPublica's Dollars for Docs database shows.

Piercing the Veil, More Drug Companies Reveal Payments to Doctors

An update of ProPublica's Dollars for Docs database includes more than $760 million in payments from 12 pharmaceutical companies to physicians and other health-care providers for consulting, speaking, research and expenses.

Dollars for Docs: See What Payments Your Doctor May Be Getting From Drug Companies

Has Your Doctor Received Drug Company Money?

With Our Dollars for Docs Update Coming, Drug Companies Defend 'Interactions' With Physicians

As ProPublica gets ready to refresh its Dollars for Docs database listing payments from drug companies to hundreds of thousands of doctors, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says paid physician speakers play a critical role in improving patient care.

UCLA Health System Pays $865,000 to Settle Celebrity Privacy Allegations

Alleged breaches of patient privacy at UCLA involving entertainers like Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and others and have been a source of embarrassment for the health system for several years. UCLA said it has taken steps to improve protection of patient privacy rights.

Medical Schools Plug Holes in Conflict-of-Interest Policies

Reacting to ProPublica's Dollars for Docs coverage, Stanford and other schools discipline doctors, rewrite policies and increase scrutiny of drug-industry ties.

Cardiac Society Draws Bulk of Funding From Stent Makers

The Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions got more than half its income in 2009 from medical device and pharmaceutical makers. This week, a study in JAMA questioned why more patients who received angioplasty and stents didn't first receive recommended medications.

Heart Docs Reject Claims Of Bias From Industry Money

Many physicians attending the Heart Rhythm Society conference see little cause for concern in the heavy financial support drug and medical device industries provide to medical specialist societies, saying the ties are informative and beneficial to patient care.

How Much Money Do Groups Receive From Industry?

In a response to a request from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, 33 professional associations and health advocacy groups listed their payments from the pharmaceutical, medical device and insurance industries. They also detailed the relationships that the groups’ executives and board members had with the same companies.

Heart Society’s Tip Sheets Fail To Mention Risks

The Heart Rhythm Society says the financial support it receives from drug and medical-device makers plays no role in its advocacy for certain treatments. Information sheets published by the group do not mention potential risks from implanted defibrillators or cardiac catheter ablation.

Financial Ties Bind Medical Societies to Drug and Device Makers

Professional groups like the Heart Rhythm Society write guidelines on treatments and the use of medical devices, but researchers say their acceptance of sponsorships and grants from drug and device makers poses a conflict of interest that many patients never consider.

The Heart Rhythm Society Responds to ProPublica’s Questions

Reporters Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber sent the Heart Rhythm Society a set of questions about potential conflicts of interest regarding the group’s acceptance of drug and device industry marketing money. The responses below were provided by the group’s president, Dr. Douglas L. Packer, and president-elect, Dr. Bruce L. Wilkoff.

Medical Groups Shy About Detailing Industry Financial Support

Sen. Charles Grassley asked 33 health organizations who their corporate backers are, and responses show that some get half their income from the medical industry. Critics say public disclosure of industry ties is needed.

Dollars for Docs Adds Payouts from HIV Drug Maker

ViiV Healthcare, which specializes in HIV medications, disclosed paying $3.4 million in speaking and consulting fees to doctors during the first three quarters of 2010. It becomes the eighth company in Dollars for Docs database.

Dollars for Docs Sparks Policy Rewrite at Colorado Teaching Hospitals

The University of Colorado Denver and its affiliated teaching hospitals have launched an overhaul of conflict of interest policies after a ProPublica database revealed extensive ties between its faculty and pharmaceutical companies.

Dollars for Docs Payments Approach $300 Million

ProPublica has added another $13 million in payments to our Dollars for Docs database of drug-company spending on doctors and other health professionals. That brings the total to nearly $295 million.

Drug Companies Retain Tight Control of Physicians’ Presentations

Drug companies keep strict control of materials doctors use in paid presentations about pharmaceuticals. The companies say this ensures that speakers comply with U.S. FDA regulations.

Med Schools Flunk at Keeping Faculty Off Pharma Speaking Circuit

Top U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals are failing to adequately enforce policies that prohibit or restrict faculty physicians from being paid by drug companies to give promotional speeches about their products.

In Minnesota, Drug Company Reports of Payments to Doctors Arrive Riddled With Mistakes

A new federal plan will require drug and medical device companies to report all payments to U.S. physicians in 2013. The danger? As Minnesota discovered, some information submitted may not be accurate.

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