ProPublica just released a series of articles and a report titled “Dollars for Docs” which investigates the “financial tiles between doctors and drug companies” Basically, ProPublica is investigating the effect of financial support from pharmaceutical companies on physician behaviour.
ProPublica’s investigation seems to suggest that drug companies are increasingly using physicians to market drugs and drug products to other physicians instead of the drug representative (i.e., sales person). The main issue can be summarized in the following discrepancy:
Drug companies say they hire the most-respected doctors in their fields for the critical task of teaching about the benefits and risks of their drugs.
But an investigation by ProPublica uncovered hundreds of doctors on company payrolls who had been accused of professional misconduct, were disciplined by state boards or lacked credentials as researchers or specialists.
In addition to the investigative reports, ProPublica has also made available a database listing physicians who have received money from pharma companies (data is from seven companies since 2009) which can be used to look-up your own physician (I’m assuming this is US data only).
What I find interesting about this on-going investigation is that the information is being made available to the public to examine and determine their own conclusions. Ideally, this will be a catalyst for discussions between patients and providers. I don’t believe people think either physicians or pharmaceutical companies should not be compensated for their skills and efforts. It’s the potential for losing one’s objectivity and for being influenced that is the issue. A greater level of transparency is needed and I think this type of information is just one more step towards health provider rating sites.