(Editor’s Note: Thanks to Mamavation for this helpful article.)

We all know when we see celebrities or athletes promoting a product on television that they’ve been paid for their endorsement. Sarah Jessica Parker probably doesn’t really use boxed hair dye, but we let that slide because it’s obvious she’s just a paid spokesperson for the brand. That’s what big companies do, they pay out billions of dollars to market their product. The more influential the person, the more sales that company is bound to see. This same marketing strategy is used with more than just fast food and beauty products. It’s used with Big Pharma too. The big difference is it’s not as clear who’s being paid to endorse a product when you’re sitting in a doctor’s office. Each year the pharmaceutical industry spends $24 billion on marketing directly to physicians. That number is 8 times what’s spent advertising to consumers, so it’s obviously an effective strategy.

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Who’s Working For Who?

These paid relationships between doctors and pharmaceutical companies bring into question who the doctor is really working for. Are they working for you, the patient, to manage your care in the best way possible? Or are they working for Pharma in exchange for perks, and a paycheck when they prescribe or recommend their product? Having knowledge of these sorts of partnerships can help you better decide if your doctor has your best interests in mind.

Risky Business

Just because a doctor is prescribing a medication doesn’t mean it poses no threat. Pharmaceutical drugs are the 4th leading cause of death, above AIDS, diabetes, automobile deaths, and more. Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are responsible for 1.9 million hospitalizations annually, and that isn’t even taking overdoses, or misprescribing into account. It’s estimated 328,000 deaths from ADRs occur each year in the U.S. and Europe alone. With such severe risks, prescribing drugs should be carefully considered, as well as options for care that may have less risks. If Pharma is in the back pocket of doctors, their decision of which treatments to offer may be influenced. Knowing what companies have contributed their marketing dollars to your physician can help you decipher the motive behind their suggested treatment.

How to Find Out if Your Doctor is Beholden to Pharma

Legally pharmaceutical companies and makers of medical devices are now required to disclose whom their dollars are going to. You can search a specific doctor and see payments made to them from these companies with Dollars for Docs. The site lists the top 50 companies to offer payouts, the highest paid physicians, and the physicians paid most frequently. If you’re looking for information on a specific hospital, you can use the search tool from Open Payments by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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This tool can be used when choosing a new doctor or assessing your current doctor. It offers full disclosure and opens the lines of communication between doctor and patient. Ultimately, getting the best care for you and your family is what matters, and having knowledge on your side can help.

What did you find when you searched your doctor?

 *Article originally appeared at Mamavation.