In the past, I’ve warned you about drug company payoffs to doctors. But new research shows the problem may be far worse than we once thought.
- About half of all doctors in the U.S. accept some form of payoff from drug companies or medical device makers.
- In 2015, these payments added up to $2.4 billion. Including $533 million in items like partnership shares and stock options… which can easily increase in value.
- Most major drug companies spend more on payments to doctors than they do for research.
The research shows doctors who get these payments are more likely to prescribe the maker’s brand-name drug instead of a generic. Even though the generic drug could save you up to 85%.
Here’s what you need to know…
Drug Company Geese Lay Golden Eggs
Big Pharma employs an army of sales reps. These salespeople fan out across the country, visiting clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ offices. Their goal is to convince doctors to prescribe their company’s products.
But there’s a lot of competition in the drug trade. For example, there are lots of different statin drugs to lower cholesterol. And most of them come in both brand-name and generic forms.
Now, here’s the big question: Why would your doctor prescribe a brand-name drug, if you could get the same drug in generic form for up to 85% less?
Unfortunately, the answer is simple. Because he or she may have something to lose if he or she prescribes the generic option.
Drug company salespeople frequently buy lunch for doctors and their staffs. They pay doctors to speak at conferences or to do research. Or they may hire the doctor as a “consultant.”
These payments range from an average of $2,227 per year to primary care doctors… all the way up to an average $6,879 per year to surgeons. Not only are surgeons paid more on average, they’re also 27% more likely than primary care docs to accept these payments.
The bottom line is there’s an almost 50/50 chance your family doctor is taking some form of “gift” or payment from Big Pharma. And for surgeons, it’s closer to 60/40… in favor of accepting gifts.
Now here’s the thing: Who’s going to kill a goose that lays golden eggs? If Drug Company X is shelling out a couple of grand a year in a doctor’s direction… do you think they might feel obliged to return the favor?
You betcha they do!
Little “Favors” Pay Drug Companies Big Dividends
New research shows these payments deliver big dividends. Doctors who received even just a single meal at drug company expense were more likely to prescribe their brand-name drugs.
And when the number of meals went up, so did the likelihood of prescribing the drug companies products. Here’s just a sample of what the researchers uncovered with drug companies providing four or more meals…
- Prescriptions for the brand-name cholesterol drug rosuvastatin nearly doubled.
- Brand-name prescriptions for olmesartan – a blood pressure drug – jumped by 450%.
- Brand-name prescriptions for the brand-name version of the hypertension drug nebivolol climbed 5.4 times.
Think about that for a moment. A doctor and his staff get free pizza or sandwiches just 4 times in a year, and there’s a 540% greater chance you’ll pay up to 5 or 6 times more than you need to for your prescription.
If you’re thinking that stinks, you’re not alone.
But here’s the good news: You also have options.
Save Big on Common Prescriptions
One of the first steps you can take is simple. If your doctor writes a prescription for a brand-name drug, ask if there’s a generic available. If so, ask for it.
Before you fill any prescription, double-check with your pharmacist. You may find your doctor isn’t aware of a generic option. With savings of up to 85% available, it’s worth asking a few questions.
Finally, check up on any doctor you visit. Under current law, Big Pharma has to report how much they’re paying to which doctors. And consumer watchdog Pro Publica has created a database of that information.
Since 2010, Pro Publica’s “Dollars for Docs” project has listed which doctors are taking how much from various drug companies.
Just plug in the doctor and the city/town where they’re located, and you can get the scoop on how much they’ve taken from drug companies. (As of this writing, data is available through 2015.)
The data even includes the type of payment. Follow the breakdown, and you can even find out which drug companies make payments related to which drugs… and how much they’ve shelled out to promote those drugs.
Just visit https://projects.propublica.org/docdollars/ to check out any doctor. If they’re pushing a brand-name drug, and they’ve been taking money from the manufacturer, there’s a good chance you can do just as well with a generic form.
Or possibly no drug at all.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
Tringale, K.R., et al, “Types and Distribution of Payments From Industry to Physicians in 2015,” JM. May 2, 2017; 317(17): 1774-1784.
Steinbrook, R., “Physicians, Industry Payments for Food and Beverages, and Drug Prescribing,” JAMA. May 2, 2017; 317(17): 1765-1768.
Ornstein, C., “Public Disclosure of Payments to Physicians From Industry,” JAMA. May 2, 2017; 317(17): 1749-1750.
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