Q&A: It’s Not Just Doctors Who Get Company Money And Gifts

Yesterday, when Massachusetts posted the nation’s most extensive database of commercial payments to health care providers, the first impulse for many of us was to look up our own doctors. But Georgia Maheras of the Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition points out that drug and device makers do not court only physicians.

“The industry will market to anyone who has the ability to prescribe to a patient,” she said. In the database are “many non-physician prescribers who received a lot of gifts.”

Q: So whom are we talking about here? Physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners?

A: The database also provides information on Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Pharmacists, Dentists, Licensed Psychologists, Massage Therapists, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, Physical Therapists, Psych. Clinical Nurses, Respiratory Therapists, and Speech Pathologists

Q: What’s your sense of the numbers and sizes of the gifts and payments they receive, as compared to physicians?

A: In terms of gifts received, the non-physician prescribers received $ 3,521,879.71- this is just about 18% of the total amount paid to individuals (the rest was to physicians).
Over 3,000 non-physician prescribers received nearly 4,000 gifts and payments by industry. This compares to over 8,800 physicians who received over 18,000 payments and gifts.
Industry marketing to these individuals is significant and has grown dramatically over the past 10 years.

Q: What is your advice to a patient who looks up a non-physician provider who treats them and finds that the database does show that gifts or money have changed hands?

A: Patients should talk with their provider and ask them about it- especially if the patient is using a device or taking a drug by the company that gave their provider a gift. Patients should be confident in any provider’s ability to give them conflict-free care. Continue reading

ProPublica: How Patients Can Use ‘The List’ (of Docs and $)

Today’s news about all the drug-company money flowing to doctors raises instant questions for patients: What do I do if my doctor is on the list? What does it mean?

ProPublica, the public-interest journalism outfit that helped lead the investigation, offers some answers here. In particular:

Q. How can I be sure my doctor is offering unbiased advice about a drug?

A. If your doctor has prescribed you medication made by a company he or she receives payments from, you should ask whether there are any cheaper generic alternatives. How does the drug compare to others in its class? What are the side effects? Are there alternatives with fewer side effects? And importantly, are there non-drug alternatives, such as diet, watchful waiting or physical therapy?

It may be that the drug you are on is the best option. But sometimes a drug company will market a new, more expensive version of an established drug even when the older one is cheaper and effective.