Researchers surveyed 3,500 adult patients and then checked on their doctors in Open Payments, a government website that reports drug and medical device company payments to physicians.
The study found that within the previous year, 65% of patients visited doctors who got payments or gifts from drug or medical device companies, but only 5% of the patients were aware of those doctor-industry links.
Patients who visited certain types of specialists were even more likely to have seen a doctor who had been paid. For example, the rates were 85% among patients who saw an orthopedic surgeon and 77% among patients who saw an obstetrician or gynecologist.
The study was published recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
“Patients should be aware of the incentives that their physicians face that may lead them to not always act in their patients’ best interest. And the more informed patients are about their providers and options for care, the better decisions they can make,” said study author Genevieve Pham-Kanter, an assistant professor in Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health in Philadelphia.
Study co-author Michelle Mello said, “Drug companies have long known that even small gifts to physicians can be influential, and research validates the notion that they tend to induce feelings of reciprocity.” Mello is a professor of law and health research and policy at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif.
The Open Payments data showed that the average amount received in drug and medical device company payments and gifts by doctors was $193. But when the researchers focused only on the doctors visited by patients in the survey, the median payment amount over the last year was $510, more than 2.5 times the national average.
“We may be lulled into thinking this isn’t a big deal because the average payment amount across all doctors is low,” Pham-Kanter said. “But that obscures the fact that most people are seeing doctors who receive the largest payments.”
I have a colleague who recently used this web site when the doctor at her father’s rehab facility prescribed numerous drugs and was unwilling to reduce the meds. He had received almost $300K dollars over the course of two years. Doctors in a position to write numerous prescriptions daily are targeted by Big Pharm.
Open Payments was established on the Affordable Care Act to allow patients to monitor their doctor’s potential conflicts of interest. This web site will come down when the ACA is repealed.
The largest gifts come from pharmaceutical companies producing the most expensive drugs used primarily on our elderly population. But these kick-backs are also common for drug companies that manufacture opioids and hormone replacement drugs.
The Bottom Line:
Be you own health advocate, just goggle “Open Payments” or visit www.cms.gov/openpayments/ and check out the physicians you trust with your health care.
Source: March 21, 2017 National Institutes of Health