Half of US Doctors Receive Payments From Pharma Industry

HealthDay News — About half of US doctors received payments from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries in 2015, amounting to $2.4 billion, and any form or amount of compensation can influence prescribing behavior, according to research published in the May 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a theme issue on conflict of interest.

In one study, researchers analyzed data collected by the Affordable Care Act’s Open Payments program, which requires biomedical companies to report all payments made to physicians. The pharmaceutical and device industry in 2015 paid about $2.4 billion to almost 450,000 out of more than 933,000 doctors, the researchers found.

The money included $1.8 billion in general payments to doctors, $544 million for ownership interests like stock options and partnership shares, and $75 million in payments for research efforts. After ownership interests, the largest sums paid to physicians came in the form of royalty or license payments ($484 million), and service fees such as paid faculty lectures ($472 million). The odds of receiving a general payment depended on the doctor’s specialty — 61.0% of surgeons got a payment, compared with 47.7% of primary care doctors.

In a second study, Ian Larkin, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, Anderson School of Management, and colleagues compared the prescribing patterns of 2126 doctors at 19 hospitals with restrictions on sales calls against 24,593 matched doctors at hospitals with no such restrictions. Market share for brand-name drugs decreased at hospitals with sales restrictions, while market share for generics increased, the researchers found.

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