Consumers wary of doctors who take drug-company dollars

This is corruption, plain and simple.
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Consumers wary of doctors who take drug-company dollars. For decades
pharmaceutical companies have given doctors gifts and money

17000 doctors cash in drug company money, report finds.

Would you trust a doctor who moonlights for a drug company? Most
Americans are skeptical of such financial arrangements, according to a
new, nationally representative poll of 1,250 U.S. adults from Consumer
Reports National Research Center.

Most respondents, 74 percent, disapprove of doctors taking payments
from drug companies in exchange for promoting specific drugs to other
doctors. And 77 percent would be concerned--some "very concerned" (37
percent) and others "somewhat concerned" (40 percent)--about the
quality of treatment or advice from a doctor who accepts such
payments. Most think doctors should tell patients about the payments
they've received from a company whose drugs they are about to

We asked these questions because thousands of U.S. doctors are on drug
company payrolls for activities such as giving speeches to other
doctors about drugs, according to an analysis of publicly disclosed
payments from seven pharmaceutical companies done by ProPublica, a
nonprofit, independent investigative reporting organization.
ProPublica also found that 384 health-care providers (mostly doctors,
along with a handful of pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and
dietitians) accepted more than $100,000 in payments from drug
companies in 2009 and 2010. Our poll found that even modest payments
were enough to turn off many respondents.

About half of Americans said they would be concerned about the quality
of care or advice from a doctor who accepted as little as $500 from a
drug company, and two-thirds said they'd be concerned if a doctor took
$5,000 or less. Most respondents (75 percent) were concerned about
doctors who accept $25,000 or less.

Would doctors who take money from drug companies "always or almost
always" be biased to prescribe that company's drugs-even when they
were no better and/or more expensive than an alternative drug? Yes,
said 36 percent of poll respondents, while another 15 percent said
doctors would be biased in this fashion "more than half the time."
Just 11 percent said doctors would "never or almost never" be biased
by a financial relationship.

When it comes to their personal physicians, Americans were more
trusting than they were of doctors as a group. Almost 30 percent said
their own doctors would "never or almost never" show such bias toward
drug companies. Still, 26 percent agreed that even their own doctor
would "always or almost always" be biased in favor of companies that
pay them, and an additional 8 percent thought their own doctor would
be biased "more than half the time."

Do ask, do tell
Most Americans think that doctors who take drug company payments to
promote their drugs to other doctors should fess up. Seventy percent
think that doctors should tell their patients about payments they've
received from a company whose drugs they are about to prescribe. But
only 2 percent of respondents reported that in the previous five years
a doctor they saw for medical treatment had actually disclosed that he
or she had taken payments from drug companies.

The ProPublica database gives a glimpse of the practice by combining
data from seven drug companies. Many other pharmaceutical companies
don't yet disclose the names of doctors on their payroll, but all will
be required to do so by 2013 under a provision in the health-reform
law. As more about these cozy relationships are revealed, consumers
may become even more suspicious. In another recent Consumer Reports
poll, we found that 69 percent of Americans think drug makers have too
much influence on doctors' decisions about which drug to prescribe.
And the majority were also concerned about rewards drugmakers give to
doctors for prescribing a lot of a drug, payments for testimonials or
for serving as a company spokesperson for a given drug, payments for
speaking at industry conferences, and paying for meals for doctors and
their staffs.

It's time for Americans and their doctors to have a frank talk about
drugs. More than half of those in our latest poll (54 percent) said
they'd feel comfortable asking their doctor if he or she has taken
payments from drug companies. And younger adults, under age 50, were
more likely (59 percent) to feel comfortable having such a discussion
with their doctor than older adults (49 percent).

It's a conversation worth having, and disclosure of these sometimes-
secret relationships is a good reason for involved doctors to come
clean. In the past, we've suggested that consumers should look their
doctors up on pharmaceutical company websites that list the doctors
they pay. Now the ProPublica database has brought many of those
sources together in one consumer-friendly package. Take a look, and--
whatever you find--feel free to ask your doctor if he or she accepts
any payments from drug companies.

-Kevin McCarthy, associate editor

Consumer Reports released this survey to coincide with ProPublica's
"Dollars for Doctors" report, and has joined with NPR, PBS Nightly
Business Report, Boston Globe, and the Chicago Tribune to help inform
the public about this investigation.

Docs on Pharma Payroll Have Blemished Records, ...
The Ohio medical board concluded [1] that pain physician William D.
Leak had performed "unnecessary" nerve tests on 20 patients and
subjected some to "an excessive number of invasive procedures,"
including injections of agents that destroy nerve tissue.

Yet the finding, posted on the board's public website, didn't prevent
Eli Lilly and Co. from using him as a promotional speaker and adviser.
The company has paid him $85,450 since 2009.

"It can be proven that most claimed research findings are false." --John P. A. Ioannidis