Pharmaceutical payments to physicians associated with increased prescribing

Payments from pharmaceutical companies to physicians was associated with increased prescribing of lower-value drugs, according to a study recently published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reviewed over 30 published studies and found that financial payments from drugmakers to physicians are both common and concerning. 

Between 2015 to 2017, more than two-thirds of physicians received such payments, though more than 80% of physicians in some specialty areas received increased payments in recent years. The study estimated that pharmaceutical payments to physicians topped $2.1 billion in 2018.

The research indicated that the findings were "consistent across all studies," adding that the pharmaceutical-physician association caused doctors to prescribe differently. The study concluded that evidence of a "temporal association and dose-responsiveness strongly suggests a causal relationship."

"Taken together, our results support the conclusion that personal payments from industry reduce physicians' ability to make independent therapeutic decisions and that they may be harmful to patients," the researchers wrote. "The medical community must change its historical opposition to reform and call for an end to such payments."

The study is the latest research to examine the financial relationship between pharmaceutical companies and providers.

A study published in Health Affairs earlier this fall found that biomedical companies sent $832 million in nonresearch payments to teaching hospitals in 2018.

The study stated that the substantial payments for gifts and education from biomedical companies to more than 90% of teaching hospitals raised concerns of "institutional conflicts of interest."

Source: HealthLeaders

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