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Which docs get money from drug companies and why it matters.

Under the ACA’s Open Payment policy, CMS will now be publishing reports of payments to physicians from drug companies. This is slated to start on June 30th. Log onto the CMS site to check out who and how much money the drug companies are paying. That site is:

Why is this important? We know that medicines are over-prescribed in this country, often resulting in high cost and poor outcome. Similarly, drug companies very often deceptively report their results in relative risk numbers that confuse doctors and patients alike and they sponsor the vast majority of medication research that is conducted. Often they will pay physicians large amounts of money to give talks and indirectly endorse products. In fact, some physicians can earn a substantial portion of their income from drug company payments.

Physicians who are paid by drug companies more often over-prescribe drugs, are more likely to promote newer and less proven drugs, and use the language of relative risk. While many are excellent physicians and use clinical judgment in prescribing drugs, it is nonetheless very important that patients be aware of how much their doctors are paid by drug companies and which companies are paying them. Such transparency can help with shared decision making and allow patients to decide if the information being conveyed to them by their physician may be tainted by a financial partnership that doctor has with pharmaceutical companies.

In the academic world, relationships between doctors and drug companies are often more subtle and many not be inscribed on Medicare’s list. For instance, several academics claim no ties to drug companies, yet those very companies sponsor their research. Unfortunately, the tentacles of our country’s pharmaceutical industry extend very far, including to the press which seems to publish their misleading results as though they are fact, but at least with Medicare’s open payment policy patients now have some access to this information.

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