In our last post, we wrote that the Obama administration will soon enact new reporting requirements for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers. Companies with any products covered under Medicare/Medicaid will be required to disclose payments they make to doctors for purposes such as promotion, consultation, development and entertainment.
The goal is to make the financial ties between doctors and drug/device companies more transparent and decrease medical conflicts of interest that could lead to unethical actions or medical malpractice. Research reveals that a significant number of doctors in Ohio and elsewhere may be inappropriately influenced by financial ties to these companies.
Studies have shown that about 25 percent of doctors receive payments of cash from drug/device companies, while almost two-thirds regularly receive smaller food-related gifts. This includes things like catered office lunches and expensive restaurant dinners paid for by pharmaceutical representatives.
To be fair, there are some legitimate financial ties between doctors and drug/device companies. Not all payments are unethical or lead to the unethical practice of medicine. However, the Obama administration thought it was important for patients to have access to this information in order to "make better-informed decisions when choosing health care professionals and making treatment decisions."
Doctors who allow themselves to be courted by drug companies may be putting their patients at risk if their prescription decisions are based on any criteria other than what is best for the patient. Hopefully, these new reporting requirements will help keep doctors honest, in addition to helping patients stay informed.
One pharmacist and consumer advocate says: "Patients want to know they are getting treatment based on medical evidence, not a lunch or a financial relationship. They want to know if their doctor has a financial relationship with a pharmaceutical company."
Source: The New York Times, "U.S. to Force Drug Firms to Report Money Paid to Doctors," Robert Pear, Jan. 16, 2012