Report: Drug Company Money Affects Doctors' Prescriptions
There's no question that doctors in the United States engage in complex, sometimes troubling, financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies. Last year, companies shelled out more than $57 billion for doctor-targeted drug promotion.
But a new analysis of 58 studies done worldwide, more than half of them in the U.S, concludes that the ties aren't always beneficial to the patient and that doctors are unduly influenced by pharmaceutical cash, contrary to claims often made by companies and doctors.
"Many doctors claim they are not influenced, and having done the review, that is not supported," Geoffrey Spurling, the study's lead author, told Reuters. "You have to say that at least some of the time, doctors are influenced."
The study was done by researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane and Healthy Skepticism, an international nonprofit research, education and advocacy association.
Of all the studies reviewed, 38 found that doctors who were proffered information from drugmakers would be more likely to prescribe those medications. And the information, provided by company staffers known as "detailers," is often accompanied by gratis meals or event tickets.
"Most doctors get most of their information about drugs from the drug industry," said Dr. Sid Wolfe of the U.S. advocacy group Public Citizen, adding that "practicing good medicine" should mean seeking out information from other facilities and institutions, along with close study of peer-reviewed research.
And doctors being courted by drugmakers were more likely to prescribe newer, pricier and riskier drugs to their patients, according to the report. That's despite federal mandates that doctors stick to older, generic drugs whenever possible in treating several common ailments, including diabetes.
But the doctor-pharma financial ties don't stop there. A new report, issued by ProPublica and NPR, presents data on 17,700 practitioners who were paid nearly $260 million by drugmakers since 2009 to promote certain drugs to fellow doctors.
Worst of all for patients, many of the influential doctors have less-than-stellar track records.
"A review of physician licensing records in the 15 most-populous states and three others found sanctions against more than 250 speakers, including some of the highest paid," the report states. "Their misconduct included inappropriately prescribing drugs, providing poor care or having sex with patients. Some of the doctors had even lost their licenses."
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