The big doctor-payment database launched last week has coughed up an interesting statistic: There are more psychiatrists collecting payments from the pharma industry than any other type of specialist. And psychiatry was the most common specialty among doctors paid more than $100,000 in consulting or speaking fees.
Of the 384 doctors paid more than $100,000, 116 were psychiatrists. That's 30 percent. Medscape Medical News theorizes that more psychiatrists are paid pharma consultants because of the high volume of psychotropic drug sales. Last year, antipsychotics alone topped $14.6 billion, with antidepressants at $9.9 billion, IMS Health data shows.
Adam Linker of the North Carolina Justice Center has a slightly different theory: Psychiatric drugs carry bigger price tags than many other meds. "Some of these drugs are the most expensive," Linker told WFAE radio. "They're some of the best-sellers, and they're driving some of the increases in drug costs. I think drug companies want to keep increasing those prescriptions."
Psychiatrists themselves say that speaking on behalf of drugmakers doesn't sway their prescribing habits. The highest-paid psychiatrist on ProPublica's database, Dr. Roueen Rafeyan, told Medscape that he mostly prescribes generic drugs. "The day I'm influenced by that is the day I'm not fit to practice medicine," Rafeyan said.