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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.

Two Leaders in Pain Treatment Have Long Ties to Drug Industry

American Pain Foundation board members Scott Fishman and Perry Fine, both physicians, have lectured and authored publications funded by makers of narcotic painkillers. They say the support doesn’t bias them.

Florida Sanctions Top Medicaid Prescribers — But Only After A Shove

Medicaid programs have long had evidence that a few physicians prescribed risky drugs in excess, but it wasn’t until Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, demanded to know the top prescribers that states began to investigate.

Feds File Massive Fraud Case Against Allied Home Mortgage

Houston-based Allied and its founder, Jim Hodge, were the subject of a July 2010 investigation by ProPublica detailing alleged misconduct in 18 states. The government suspended Allied from issuing government-backed mortgages, saying nearly a third of its FHA loans between 2001 and 2010 defaulted.

Doctors Avoid Penalties in Suits Against Medical Firms

At least 15 drug and medical-device companies have paid $6.5 billion since 2008 to settle accusations of marketing fraud or kickbacks, but none of the more than 75 doctors named as participants were sanctioned.

Troubled Health-Care Staffing Chain Settles With Government for $150 Million

Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc. had been accused of submitting false bills to federal and state health programs. An earlier ProPublica investigation found that the company had hired several nurses despite a history of problems.

News Reports Cite Drop in Physician Speaking Fees

Regional newspapers that analyzed ProPublica's Dollars for Docs data say drug company payments to physician speakers have declined in their states, suggesting that new restrictions and publicity are making an impact.

Patients Deserve to Know What Drug Companies Pay Their Doctor

ProPublica's newly updated Dollars for Docs database offers a glimpse of what patients can expect in 2013, when all drug and medical-device companies must report to the federal government what they pay doctors to help market their products.

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.

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