Last week, ProPublica updated its Dollars for Docs news application -- a database detailing the payments physicians have received from pharmaceutical companies for speaking engagements, research, meals and other amenities. Currently, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are not required to disclose these payments, at least not until 2013, and even then doctors won't have to share this information with their patients.
But should they have to?
ProPublica senior reporter Tracy Weber addressed this growing issue in an interview yesterday with NPR's Talk of the Nation. During the segment, Weber pointed out that while close ties between the medical industry and doctors can lead to more effective treatments and better-educated physicians, these relationships can also cause doctors to downplay side effects and poor research outcomes.
"Studies have shown that even small tchotchkes and dinners and such have an opportunity to influence physicians to maybe feel kindly towards a certain product or to have some sort of a bias that they might not they themselves be aware of," Weber says. "As a result, many top academic medical centers have told their physicians we don't want you to be speaking on behalf of these companies."
You can listen to her interview below, and read all her reporting on how industry money reaches physicians on our Dollars for Docs series page.