ProPublica is tracking the financial ties between doctors and medical companies.
Medicaid programs have long had evidence that a few physicians prescribed risky drugs in excess, but it wasn’t until Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, demanded to know the top prescribers that states began to investigate.
The Obama administration has yet to draft rules on the disclosure of industry payments to doctors, missing a deadline set out in last year's health-care law. Drug and device companies, which are required to begin collecting payment data starting next year, are still awaiting such guidance.
At least 15 drug and medical-device companies have paid $6.5 billion since 2008 to settle accusations of marketing fraud or kickbacks, but none of the more than 75 doctors named as participants were sanctioned.
Regional newspapers that analyzed ProPublica's Dollars for Docs data say drug company payments to physician speakers have declined in their states, suggesting that new restrictions and publicity are making an impact.
ProPublica's newly updated Dollars for Docs database offers a glimpse of what patients can expect in 2013, when all drug and medical-device companies must report to the federal government what they pay doctors to help market their products.
Hundreds of thousands of doctors have accepted free meals from pharmaceutical companies that invite them to scientific or educational sessions. At least 20 physicians accepted more than $2,000 worth of meals from one company last year, ProPublica's Dollars for Docs database shows.
An update of ProPublica's Dollars for Docs database includes more than $760 million in payments from 12 pharmaceutical companies to physicians and other health-care providers for consulting, speaking, research and expenses.
As ProPublica gets ready to refresh its Dollars for Docs database listing payments from drug companies to hundreds of thousands of doctors, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says paid physician speakers play a critical role in improving patient care.
Two medical groups recruited to lobby the Food and Drug Administration against generic versions of a Sanofi-Aventis blood-thinner each received millions from the manufacturer.
Recommendations made by two medical societies give at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Reacting to ProPublica's Dollars for Docs coverage, Stanford and other schools discipline doctors, rewrite policies and increase scrutiny of drug-industry ties.
The Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions got more than half its income in 2009 from medical device and pharmaceutical makers. This week, a study in JAMA questioned why more patients who received angioplasty and stents didn't first receive recommended medications.
Many physicians attending the Heart Rhythm Society conference see little cause for concern in the heavy financial support drug and medical device industries provide to medical specialist societies, saying the ties are informative and beneficial to patient care.
In a response to a request from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, 33 professional associations and health advocacy groups listed their payments from the pharmaceutical, medical device and insurance industries. They also detailed the relationships that the groups’ executives and board members had with the same companies.
The Heart Rhythm Society says the financial support it receives from drug and medical-device makers plays no role in its advocacy for certain treatments. Information sheets published by the group do not mention potential risks from implanted defibrillators or cardiac catheter ablation.
Professional groups like the Heart Rhythm Society write guidelines on treatments and the use of medical devices, but researchers say their acceptance of sponsorships and grants from drug and device makers poses a conflict of interest that many patients never consider.
Reporters Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber sent the Heart Rhythm Society a set of questions about potential conflicts of interest regarding the group’s acceptance of drug and device industry marketing money. The responses below were provided by the group’s president, Dr. Douglas L. Packer, and president-elect, Dr. Bruce L. Wilkoff.
The Heart Rhythm Society’s annual conference is a marketing bonanza for drug companies and medical device makers.