The People's Perspective on Medicine

Big Pharma Is Still Giving Doctors Big Money

Pharmaceutical and device manufacturers are still spending a lot on financial ties to health care providers and institutions.
Cash money bucket

Despite concern about conflicts of interest, hospitals and physicians are still getting substantial funds from pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers. Federal law now requires disclosure of consulting and speaking fees, grants, entertainment, travel and meals for health care providers.

These payments amounted to $3.5 billion in the last five months of 2013 according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That amounts to $23 million dollars a day in financial ties that seem likely to influence providers’ judgment.

Even though that may be less than in years past, we still find it shocking and inappropriate. You will find lots more details on this situation at ProPublica’s website.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I work for a board certified MD with an Ivy League education and have never seen any money from big pharma come to our practice. Our patients love us but we struggle to make payroll and rent every month. I think it is a shame to tar all clinicians with the same brush. Perhaps there is a segment, say researchers, that get money but the everyday Jane and Joe MD are too busy with sick people, insurance paperwork, taking uncompensated hospital calls and keeping up with continuing education to collude with big pharma.

It seems to be an awareness problem–the majority of the public still doesn’t know that their doctor may be making big money from Big Pharma. Not one person to whom I’ve mentioned this new transparency and Pro Publica’s Dollars for Docs website had heard about either of those. As long as it’s still a minority who know and care about this problem, Big Pharma will continue its unethical practices. It would take Big Media to expose this, but they get far too much income from Big Pharma to even consider it. Those rich and powerful industries are still winning at the game.

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