Study finds drug company pay may be the reason

Human nature being what it is, this may come as no surprise.  But a new study has found that pharmaceutical companies’ compensation to doctors in the form of cash, meals and travel, result in doctors prescribing that company’s brand name drug more often than not.  And the higher the payments to the doctors, the more prescriptions the doctor writes for that drug.

According to “First, Do No Harm: Financial Conflicts in Medicine,” an August 2, 2013 study posted on the Social Science Research Network, doctors were much more likely to prescribe a company’s brand name drug if that company had paid that doctor.  The larger the payments, the bigger the effect. But even small, infrequent payments still influenced doctors to prescribe the brand-name medicine.  And there was a regional effect as well; physicians from certain areas, such as Louisiana (classified by the study as a “high corruption state”), were more likely to prescribe pursuant to payment than others, such as Oregon (classified as “low corruption”).

Notably, female doctors were found to be less vulnerable to payment influence than male doctors.

In 2014, pursuant to the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (part of the Affordable Care Act), pharmaceutical companies will have to post information about what they are paying, and to whom.  But there is a tool on the ProPublica website now that will let you check if your doctor has received in excess of $250 of payments from 15 pharmaceutical companies since 2009.  It is called Dollars for Docs; click on this link to access it: http://projects.propublica.org/docdollars/