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Doctors who got more money from pharma companies prescribed more brand-name drugs: study

19 March 2016

About half of doctors in top specialties in Washington state accept payments from pharmaceutical firms and medical-device makers.

Though this is much lower than their peers outside Washington, those who took cash were about twice as likely as those who did not, to prescribe more expensive brand-name drugs.

An analysis from ProPublica with cooperation from The Seattle Times, reveals for the first time that doctors who accepted payments prescribed drugs differently on average than those who did not.

Doctors had long rejected any connection between the money they received from pharmaceutical firms and their drug prescriptions.

According to Seattle-based, HIV expert Dr Peter Shalit, 62, there was little connection between the nearly $189,000 he received from the industry in 2014, mostly in consulting and speaking fees, and his very high rate of prescriptions for brand-name drugs, Fortune reported.

He added about 55 per cent of his prescriptions were for branded drugs in 2014, more than twice that of his peers in internal medicine, those these were mostly for his patients with HIV/AIDS, who had few generic alternatives.

The authors of the study, however, point out that the findings of Medicare Part D prescription drug data, did not suggest a link between payments and doctors choosing to prescribe drugs from the specific companies making those payments. However, they did find a clear correlation between average rates of overall brand-name prescribing and receiving industry money.

That was ultimately a positive for the revenue of pharmaceutical companies, and the trend consistently grew stronger the more industry money a doctor received.

For instance, internal medicine specialists who had taken over $5,000 had a 30.1 per cent brand-name prescription rate in 2014, as against the 19.8 per cent rate for doctors who received nothing.

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