Dollars for Docs
How Industry Dollars Reach Your Doctors
By Charles Ornstein, Lena Groeger, Mike Tigas, and Ryann Grochowski Jones, ProPublica. Updated March 17, 2016
Pharmaceutical and medical device companies are now required by law to release details of their payments to a variety of doctors and U.S. teaching hospitals for promotional talks, research and consulting, among other categories. Use this tool to search for general payments (excluding research and ownership interests) made from August 2013 to December 2014. | Related Story: Now There’s Proof: Docs Who Get Company Cash Tend to Prescribe More Brand-Name Meds »
Now There’s Proof: Docs Who Get Company Cash Tend to Prescribe More Brand-Name Meds
The more money doctors receive from drug and medical device companies, the more brand-name drugs they tend to prescribe, a new ProPublica analysis shows. Even a meal can make a difference.
Doctors who got money from drug and device makers—even just a meal– prescribed a higher percentage of brand-name drugs overall than doctors who didn’t, our analysis showed. Indeed, doctors who received industry payments were two to three times as likely to prescribe brand-name drugs at exceptionally high rates as others in their specialty.
Doctors who received more than $5,000 from companies in 2014 typically had the highest brand-name prescribing percentages. Among internists who received no payments, for example, the average brand-name prescribing rate was about 20 percent, compared to about 30 percent for those who received more than $5,000.
ProPublica’s analysis doesn’t prove industry payments sway doctors to prescribe particular drugs, or even a particular company’s drugs. Rather, it shows that payments are associated with an approach to prescribing that, writ large, benefits drug companies’ bottom line.
Dollars for Docs
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“It again confirms the prevailing wisdom … that there is a relationship between payments and brand-name prescribing,” said Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who provided guidance on early versions of ProPublica’s analysis. “This feeds into the ongoing conversation about the propriety of these sorts of relationships. Hopefully we’re getting past the point where people will say, ‘Oh, there’s no evidence that these relationships change physicians’ prescribing practices.’”