As public scrutiny of the financial ties between drugmakers and doctors has grown over the last few years, more physicians have backed away from gifts and payments from the pharma industry. That's the conclusion of a new report from the Mongan Institute for Health Policy, which found that 84 percent of docs accepted freebies, samples and speaking fees last year, compared with 94 percent in 2004.
Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the survey shows that skeptical attitudes toward pharma-physician relationships--exemplified by new conflicts-of-interest policies at some medical schools and teaching hospitals--are having an effect on doctors' behavior, the lead author told Bloomberg. The biggest change: CME payments and junkets, which dropped to 18 percent from 35 percent. "The data clearly show that relationships have dropped dramatically," said Mongan director Eric Campbell.
The study also found that doctors with industry relationships do tend to prescribe more brand-name drugs than those without industry ties. Plus, U.S. regions with the lowest medical costs also have fewer gift-accepting doctors, the survey showed. "[W]hile the drug representatives tell the doctors that these gifts mean nothing," Campbell said, "studies show that accepting anything of value, even things of essentially no value, establishes a reciprocity between the person who gives the gift and the one who receives it."
PhRMA told the Los Angeles Times that many of the industry-doctor links are perfectly appropriate, such as drug samples. The industry association has slightly tightened its voluntary guidelines for relationships between physicians and pharma. And several Big Pharma companies have started disclosing their financial ties to physicians, including Eli Lilly, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline.