The website ProPublica has done the homework — which in this case means its team has crunched the numbers. Their math confirms what many already suspected: Doctors who accept payments from pharmaceutical and medical device companies do tend to prescribe more brand name drugs and devices as opposed to less costly generic options.
ProPublica, a highly respected investigative journalism newsroom for the digital age, has been tracking payments for six years. With the 2010 Affordable Care Act, drug companies now have to report their payments. These are publicly accessible via the site Dollars for Docs. ProPublica has also tracked patterns in MedicarePart D, the prescription Drug Program. Then the team matched the payment records on payments with corresponding data on doctors’ medication choices in Medicare’s prescription drug program.
Here are the crib notes:
- Doctors are paid for promotional speaking, consulting, business travel, meals, royalties and gifts. Even doctors who only accepted meal tickets tended to favor brand name RXs.
- Doctors who received payments were between two and three times as likely to prescribe brand-name drugs at exceptionally high rates as others in their specialty.
- Among cardiologists who wrote 1,000 or more prescriptions for Medicare patients, nearly nine in 10 received payments from a drug or device company in 2014
- Among internists and family practitioners who wrote 1,000 or more prescriptions for Medicare patients, seven in 10 accepted payments
- One NJ doc got close to $67K from companies in one year. “[His] brand-name prescribing rate was more than twice the mean of his peers in internal medicine,” ProPublica says.
- Where you live may affect how likely it is that your doc takes payouts from pharma. Twice as many doctors in Nevada, Alabama, Kentucky and South Carolina accept payments than do docs in in those crunchy states Vermont, Wisconsin, Maine and Minnesota.
- For some patients, generics are not a viable alternative. Notable among them are HIV/AIDS patients and those with complicated conditions for whom generics haven’t been successful
- For most patients, generics are as effective as brand name drugs
Visit Dollars for Docs to see whether your doctor or hospital has accepted payments, how much and from whom. Just enter your doctor/hospital’s name and state, and the site spits out the facts.