Physicians on the Payrolls of Drug Companies: Do Financial Ties Bind?

November 24, 2010

In the wake of ongoing investigations by Senator Charles Grassley (Republican, Iowa) into potential conflicts of interest between academic researchers and the pharmaceutical industry, numbers recently posted on the web site Pro Publica, an independent non-profit organization, may come as something of a surprise.

In the wake of ongoing investigations by Senator Charles Grassley (Republican, Iowa) into potential conflicts of interest between academic researchers and the pharmaceutical industry, numbers recently posted on the web site Pro Publica-- an independent non-profit organization-- may come as something of a surprise.

According to that web site, 7 pharmaceutical companies have paid many millions of dollars in honoraria to physicians to provide such services as lectures, consultations, and patient education. In an average quarter, for example, those drug companies paid from $90,036 to physicians in Wyoming to $28,586,789 to California physicians. A list of honoraria paid to doctors in every state can be found on http://projects.propublica.org/docdollars/states.

ProPublica also reported that 384 health-care providers-most of them doctors-each accepted more than $100,000 in payments from drug companies in 2009 and 2010. In a separate article, the web site reported that Massachusetts has become the first state to post an online database of honoraria from companies that make medications and medical devices to the state's health care providers.

Health care consumers are skeptical about financial ties between pharma and physicians. In a recent survey of 1250 adults conducted by Consumer Reports, the majority of respondents noted that they would be "concerned," "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about the quality of treatment or advice from a doctor who accepts payments from a drug company. Roughly half of those surveyed said they would be concerned about the quality of care or advice rendered by a physician who accepted as little as $500 from a drug maker.

Psychiatric Times has followed the issue of potential conflicts of interest between drug companies and physicians closely. Please click here for links to the following articles:
Update on Conflicts of Interest Allegations

Toward Credible Conflict of Interest Policies in Clinical Psychiatry

Drug Makers to Report Physician Payments

Senate Investigations Spread to APA and ACCME

The Age of Conflicts-of Interest

Conflicts Grow Over Conflicts-of-Interest Policies and Practices

.