Skip 
Navigation Link

1215 South Walnut Ave.
Demopolis, AL 36732 map map 

Access to Care: 800.239.2901

Health Policy & Advocacy
Resources
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest News
24-Hour Primary Care Clinics Would Improve Continuity of CareBrochure Can Improve Opioid Disposal Rates After SurgeryReminder, Recall Systems Improve Immunization UptakeSatisfaction Higher in Providers Who E-Mail PatientsRestaurant Bans Have Big Impact on Smoking RatesReduce Legal Blood-Alcohol Limit to Cut Drunk Driving Deaths: ReportFrom Birth On, One Sex Is HardierIs Obesity Slowing Gains in U.S. Life Spans?Health Tip: Perform Regular Skin ChecksFewer Hospitals Closed After Obamacare Expanded MedicaidProgress in Fighting Antibiotic Resistance Shown in CDC MapUSPSTF Questions Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis ScreeningHIV Screening Most Optimal at 25 Years of Age If No Risk FactorsBlood Banks Need January DonorsChild Death Rate Higher in U.S. Than Other Wealthy NationsPoor Credit Scores, Poor HealthClean Air Act May Be Saving More Lives Than ThoughtHealth Tip: Make Your Doctor's Appointment SuccessfulOb-Gyns Encouraged to Consider Social Determinants of HealthU.S. Life Expectancy Drops as Opioid Deaths SurgeFDA Gets Tough With Homeopathic MedicinesState Rules Affect Survival of Immigrants With Kidney FailureTougher State Laws Curb Vaccine RefusersDoctors Must Report on at Least 1 Patient, 1 Measure for MACRADecline in Antibiotic Use in Livestock Isn't Enough, Critics SayWoman's Selfie of Skin Cancer Went Viral, Sparked AwarenessCan Video Games Hone ER Docs' Skills?Higher Booze Taxes Might Pay Off for Public HealthAre Emergency Medical Workers Ready for a Nuclear Attack?Pediatric Oncologists Willing to Consider Medical MarijuanaHow to Perk Up the Holidays for Hospital PatientsWhat to Do If Someone's Bleeding BadlyAre Good Kidneys Going to Waste?U.S. Gun Sales Rose After Sandy Hook Massacre: StudyCreating Your Family Health TreeLocal Smoke-Free Laws Tied to Fewer Lung Cancer CasesYour Doc Is Away? Substitute Doctors a Safe Option, Study FindsChecking Prices for Medical Procedures Online? Good LuckPatients More Prone to Complain About Younger DoctorsPatients Often Uncomfortable With Overlapping SurgeriesClinician Denial of Patient Requests Impacts SatisfactionPatients React Poorly When Docs Say 'No'Memo to Doctors: Spit Out the Bad NewsDoubts Raised About Use of Products Containing OxybenzoneReport: Industry Hid Decades-Old Study Showing Sugar's Unhealthy EffectsMany Health Care Providers Work While SickMore Patients Are Having a Say in Their Medical CareFDA Seeks to Speed Development of 'Regenerated' Organs for Medical UseHealth Care Experts in Favor of Patient Contribution to NotesMillions Could Miss Out on a Potential Alzheimer's Breakthrough
Questions and AnswersVideosLinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

Health Insurance
Healthcare

Half of U.S. Docs Get Payments From Drug, Device Industries: Study

HealthDay News
by By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: May 2nd 2017

new article illustration

TUESDAY, May 2, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- About half of U.S. doctors received payments from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries in 2015, amounting to $2.4 billion, a new study reports.

Those payments and gifts very likely encourage doctors to prescribe pricey brand-name drugs and devices pushed by sales representatives, a second study argues.

Doctors at academic medical centers were more likely to prescribe cheaper generic drugs than expensive brand-name drugs after their hospitals adopted rules that restricted pharmaceutical sales visits, the researchers said.

Restrictions on sales visits were associated with a reduction in prescriptions for brand-name drugs, said lead researcher Ian Larkin, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Management.

"If a doctor was prescribing that drug 100 times a month, our estimate is it would go down to about 92 times a month after the restrictions were put in place," Larkin said. "That's actually a very substantial change."

Drug companies earned more than $60 billion in 2010 for brand-name drugs included in the study, Larkin and his colleagues noted. Generic drugs are 80 to 85 percent less expensive, which means hospitals can save lots of money if doctors start prescribing generics instead of brand-name drugs.

The studies appear May 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pharmaceutical companies spend money on direct marketing to doctors -- even more than they do on research and development -- because they strongly believe it works, said Dr. Adams Dudley, a pulmonologist and professor with the University of California, San Francisco.

"That's why they're doing it," said Dudley, who wrote a journal editorial accompanying the studies. "That's what they themselves say in their internal documents -- if you want to influence a doctor, get a meal, get a gift."

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the leading industry group, did not respond to a request for comment.

In one of the new studies, researchers analyzed data collected by an Affordable Care Act program called Open Payments that requires biomedical companies to report all payments made to physicians.

The pharmaceutical and device industry in 2015 paid about $2.4 billion to almost 450,000 out of more than 933,000 doctors, the researchers found.

The money included $1.8 billion in general payments to doctors, $544 million for ownership interests like stock options and partnership shares, and $75 million in payments for research efforts, the study reported.

The chances of receiving a general payment depended on the doctor's specialty -- 61 percent of surgeons got a payment, compared with 48 percent of primary care doctors.

By far, the majority of general payments were for food and beverages, which became common practice after the pharmaceutical industry placed self-imposed restrictions on its marketing in 2002, Larkin and Dudley said. Because of this, the average per-doctor value of general payments is around $200.

"It's a very common practice for a pharma rep to show up with a box of sandwiches or a stack of pizzas" for the doctors to share with staff, Larkin said. "It's something that's valuable. These are very busy people, and it's not like these medical centers have a lot of catering services."

After ownership interests, the largest sums paid to physicians came in the form of royalty or license payments ($484 million), and service fees such as paid faculty lectures ($472 million).

"Many doctors would say they can't be bought for the low amounts we're talking about, but the amounts actually aren't that low. Many, many doctors are getting thousands of dollars. It's hard to imagine that is not influential," Dudley said.

Due to concerns over this influence, many teaching hospitals have implemented restrictions on sales visits to doctors, Larkin said.

Some hospitals have banned meals, and some require sales representatives to make an appointment rather than drop in for a visit, Larkin said. Other restrictions include the wearing of badges, training on what can be discussed during a sales call, and either eliminating free samples or requiring they be sent to a central pharmacy.

Larkin and his colleagues compared the prescribing patterns of more than 2,100 doctors at 19 hospitals with restrictions on sales calls against more than 24,500 matched doctors at hospitals with no such restrictions.

Market share for brand-name drugs decreased at hospitals with sales restrictions, while market share for generics increased, researchers found.

"Physicians are being swayed by some of these techniques," Larkin said.

Patients can take steps to help doctors lower drug costs, Dudley said:

  • They can ask their doctor if a drug being prescribed is really necessary. Some doctors may prescribe something because they think the patient wants medicine, when in fact the patient could get by without the drug.
  • They can ask their doctor or pharmacist if there's a generic alternative to the drug prescribed.
  • They can ask their pharmacist if there are any equivalent and cheaper substitutes to the prescribed drug. The doctor may not have that information, Dudley said.

More information

For more on Open Payments, visit the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.