You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Favors are often exchanged among friends and family. But what most people don’t know, or don’t want to know, is that questionable “favors” are also exchanged in professional and business relationships. Over the years, there have been reports that favors, or benefits, are too often exchanged between drug manufacturers and doctors and hospitals who prescribe medicines.
Recent studies have explored this relationship and compared data to see if drug makers are, effectively, paying doctors to prescribe their medications.
In 2010, the Affordable Care Act included a section called the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. This Act requires drug and device manufacturers to report any and all payments made to physicians and hospitals. Since 2013, 40.74 million records have been published and $24.92 billion dollars have been given to doctors and hospitals from drug and device manufacturers. The Sunshine Act has been successful at exposing these payments.
Open Payments is a website that provides a listing of doctors who receive money or incentives from drug manufacturers. The website is very easy to use; you can visit the website and simply type the name of a doctor or hospital in the search bar and see if they are receiving money – how much, from whom, and when.
Recently, UNC-Chapel Hill conducted a study to determine if there was a correlation between the amount of money doctors received from drug companies and the frequency with which doctors prescribe that company’s drugs. Put another way – are doctors more likely to prescribe a company’s drug if that company is giving them money?
The study used information and data from the Open Payments website as well as from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to answer that question. Turns out, the answer is “yes.” Focusing specifically on cancer doctors, the research study found that there are “increased odds of prescribing a manufacturer’s drug among physicians receiving payments.”
Unfortunately, this study is not the first of its kind. Research has shown this correlation, an increased likelihood of prescribing a company’s medicine if that company pays the doctor or hospital, for many different types of medications.
For example, in 2016, a similar study was performed, this time focusing on cholesterol medicines. The same conclusion was made – manufacturer payments to doctors and hospitals correspond with higher rates of prescribing that manufacturer’s cholesterol medicine.
While all medicines are supposed to help patients, there is a potential concern that doctors might not be prescribing a medicine that is best for the patient, but rather prescribing a medicine that is best for their bank account.
If you are wondering if your doctor is receiving payments for prescribing specific drugs, ask your doctor or go to the Open Payments website. As I always advise, it is important to do your homework on your doctor, your medications, your medical devices, everything related to your health. (Of course, you should also do your homework on your choice of attorney as well.) If you would like to discuss any prescription medication that gives you concern, give me a call and we can sort it out.