For a long time, doctors have denied that the payments they receive from pharmaceutical companies have any relationship to how they prescribe drugs. And while until just recently there was little evidence to the contrary, ProPublica has come to our rescue. Their recent analysis has found that doctors who receive payments from the medical industry do tend to prescribe drugs differently than their colleagues who don’t receive payments. And the more money they receive (on average) the more brand-name medications they prescribe. For the analysis, ProPublica looked at brand-name prescribing rates for doctors who received no payments, $0.01 to $100, $100 to $500, $500 to $1,000, $1,000 to $5,000 and more than $5000 in payments, from drug or device companies in 2014. Doctors who got money from drug and device makers, even if it was just a meal, prescribed a higher percentage of brand-name drugs overall than doctors who didn’t. And that percentage was two to three times higher than others in their specialty. The doctors who received more than $5,000, from companies in 2014, typically had the highest brand-name prescribing percentages. So, while ProPublica’s analysis doesn’t prove industry payments sway doctors to prescribe particular drugs (or even a particular company’s drugs) it does show that payments are associated with an approach to prescribing that benefits a drug company’s bottom line (shocker). Hopefully, this will move us past the, ‘Oh, there’s no evidence that these relationships change physicians’ prescribing practices,’ belief. Again, even though numerous studies have show generics to work just as well as name brands- for most patients- many doctors are still choosing their more expensive counterparts.And payments are widespread; almost nine in 10 cardiologists, who wrote at least 1,000 prescriptions for Medicare patients, received payments from a drug or device company in 2014, while seven in 10 internists and family practitioners did. People can decide whether or not the payments are good or bad, but we can no longer debate that they exist throughout the medical profession. A spokeswoman for the industry trade group- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America- Holly Campbell, believes that many factors affect doctors’ prescribing decisions but it’s just part of the process. Even though some doctors have above-average prescribing rates of brand name drugs, they provide real world insights and valuable feedback. So, when doctors and biopharmaceutical companies work together, patient care is improved and the medicines we have today are used better. But, who are some of these doctors and just how much money are they making?
Amer Syed of Jersey City, New Jersey, received more than $66,800 from companies in 2014 and his brand-name prescribing rate was more than twice the mean of his peers in internal medicine.
Psychiatrist Alexander Pinkusovich of Brooklyn, also prescribed a much higher proportion of brand-name drugs than his peers in 2014 and he received more than $53,400 from drug companies.
From The Atlantic article:
“ProPublica has been tracking drug company payments to doctors since 2010 through a project known as Dollars for Docs. Our first lookup tool included only seven companies, most of which were required to report their payments publicly as a condition of legal settlements. The tool now covers every drug and device company, thanks to the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, a part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
The law required all drug and device companies to publicly report their payments. The first reports became public in 2014, covering the last five months of 2013; 2014 payments were released last year. The payments in our analysis include promotional speaking, consulting, business travel, meals, royalties and gifts, among others. We did not include research payments, although those are reported in the government’s database of industry spending, which it calls Open Payments. Separately, ProPublica has tracked patterns in Medicare’s prescription drug program, known as Part D, which covers more than 39 million people. Medicare pays for at least one in four prescriptions dispensed in the country. This analysis matches the two datasets, looking at doctors in five large medical specialties: family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, psychiatry, and ophthalmology. We only looked at doctors who wrote at least 1,000 prescriptions in Medicare Part D.”
Here’s the deal, if a generic would be just as appropriate, that’s what I want. My issue, and I believe this is the issue many will take with this information, is that if the doctor is so easily swayed by a pharmaceutical company, what else could just as easily have his ear? The age of salespeople, who aren’t medical professionals, selling brand name drugs via dinners, equipment, trips, etc.- to our doctors- needs to be over.
Erin Elizabeth is a long time activist with a passion for the healing arts, working in that arena for a quarter century. Her site HealthNutNews.com is barely 4 years old, but cracked the top 20 Natural Health sites worldwide. She is an author, public speaker, and has recently done some TV and film programs for some of her original work which have attracted international media coverage. Erin was the recipient for the Doctors Who Rock "Truth in Journalism award for 2017. You can get Erin’s free e-book here and also watch a short documentary on how she overcame vaccine injuries, Lyme disease, significant weight gain, and more. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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