Two-thirds of Americans or basically the majority of the American population have been in the care of a medical doctor recently that has been paid by a drug company – and most people don’t realize it!

This study conducted by Dr. Genevieve Pham-Kanter with colleagues at Stanford and Harvard Universities revealed that only 5% of those surveyed even realized that their doctors have been receiving some form of payment from Big Pharma. The study was conducted among 3,500 adults and linked them to data about their physicians from Open Payments, a U.S. government website that tracks payments made by pharmaceutical and scientific device maker companies to specific medical doctors and medical academe. Payments here are commonly believed to be payments for “research services”.

However, when a study was conducted on where the money was going and what these medical doctors were doing with it, the researchers found out that payments were hardly for research but for lobbying and promoting the pharma or device makers products. Talking about medical doctors becoming marketing people now!

Which Doctors Received the Most?

Orthopedic surgeons and obstetrics-gynecologist doctors were discovered to have the highest percentage of receiving some kind of “incentive” from Big Pharma. Pham-Kanter opined that patients should be aware of the incentives that their doctors receive so they can make better and more informed decisions on which doctor to choose for their health problems.

Although medical doctors have claimed that the payments they receive from pharmaceutical companies have no bearing on the way and choice of drugs they prescribe to patients, the reality seems to be a different story. A survey conducted in 2016 by ProPublica, an independent, not-for-profit reporting agency, discovered that doctors who received money or even just accepted a meal or gift from drug and medical device manufacturers tend to prescribe a higher number of brand-name drugs than doctors who didn’t.

ProPublica reported that the analysis does not prove that industry payments do influence doctors to prescribe a specific drug or device.

The Open Payments project is a federal program that collects information about payments drug and device companies make to medical doctors. These payments do not necessarily have to be in cash; they can be in the form of gifts, research, travel, speaking fees, and meals. Although payments may average about US$193 only, repeatedly being compensated by this kind of companies do generate a hefty sum over time for the receiver.

Between August 2013 to December 2015, big pharma companies like Genetech Inc., the manufacturer of drugs such as Xolair, an anti-allergy drug, and anti-viral drug Tamiflu, made payments amounting to US$727 million to doctors and research hospitals. With such “hefty and generous amounts”, it is no wonder that medical doctors and health practitioners are tempted to work in favor of their benefactors.

This study was published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine and funded by the Greenwall Foundation.

All we need to do is police the ranks of medical doctors and make sure such kickbacks are not allowed to tarnish the reputation of most medical and naturopathic doctors like us.

How about you – what is your opinion of medical doctors that regularly get kickbacks from Big Pharma? Send in your comments below.

Image by George Hodan / CC0 1.0