ProPublica, the excellent independent investigative journalism outlet, has been publishing data on pharma bribes and conflicts of interest in medicine since 2010. And they’ve turned up a lot of dirt. But this one is a doozy:
ProPublica analysis has shown that most U.S. doctors are taking payments from either drug corporations, medical device corporations, or both. More importantly, the data shows that doctors who receive payments are much more likely to prescribe a higher percentage of brand-name drugs than their colleagues who don’t take any money at all.
Now you can easily look up your doctor or hospital to find out if they’re part of this corrupt system. Just head over to the Dollars for Docs tool and get searching!
(And keep in mind that this is just the data that these corporations are forced to disclose under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act [another part of that pesky Obamacare that Republicans hate so much]. It doesn’t include research payments or physicians’ stocks in these corporations.)
It’s worth repeating: this isn’t just about a general opposition to the idea of drug corporations taking my kid’s orthodontist out to lunch. The data shows that doctors who got money from drug corporations and medical device manufacturers—even if it’s just a meal–were twice and even three times as likely to prescribe brand-name drugs at much higher rates than their peers in the same specialty.
This matters because brand name drugs are, of course, more expensive than generics—and many patients don’t have the knowledge, the resources, or the time to think to question their doctor’s decision when they get to the pharmacy.
Drug corporations know this, and even play on this uncertainty to mislead consumers and boost their profits. Since as far back as 1987, drug manufacturers have been using all kinds of scare tactics, including paying doctors to go on speaking tours about the “dangers” of generic drugs, to create the false impression that generics are less safe than their brand-name counterparts.
One corporation, Ayerst Laboratories, even sent letters to pharmacists, suggesting that anyone who substituted generic propranolol for Ayerst’s drug Inderal could be vulnerable to lawsuits by heart attack patients. Today, drug corporations use commercials to scare consumers into visiting their doctor and asking for the drug by name—a request that many doctors cave to, rather than pushing them to an equally effective generic.