Pharmaceutical Prescription Practices Tied to Pharmaceutical Payments to Doctors

A recent buzz has developed regarding a ProPublica study showing an association between the amount of money physicians receive from pharmaceutical companies and their likelihood of recommending brand (rather than generic) prescription drugs.

Here’s a link to the full story: Now There’s Proof: Docs Who Take Company Cash Tend to Prescribe More Brand-Name Meds

The more money doctors receive from drug and medical device companies, the more brand-name drugs they tend to prescribe, a new ProPublica analysis shows. Even a meal can make a difference.”

Here’s a link to NPR’s summary:  Drug-Company Payments Mirror Doctors’ Brand-Name Prescribing  An excerpt:

A ProPublica analysis has found that doctors who receive payments from the medical industry do indeed prescribe drugs differently on average than their colleagues who don’t. And the more money they receive, the more brand-name medications they tend to prescribe.

We matched records on payments from pharmaceutical and medical device makers in 2014 with corresponding data on doctors’ medication choices in Medicare’s prescription drug program.

Doctors who got money from drug and device makers prescribed a higher percentage of brand-name drugs overall than doctors who didn’t, our analysis showed. Even those who simply got meals from companies prescribed more brand-name drugs, on average.”

My take: Prescription patterns vary widely among physicians and often for good reason.  At the same time, it is likely that in many cases variation in prescription patterns is influenced by frequent contact with pharmaceutical companies.  As a consequence, this has the potential to make patients question whether their physician always has their best interest in mind and the potential to increase healthcare costs.

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