One Reason Doctors Push Expensive Drugs

Drugs and Money

New Report Uncovers Trend in Profitable Prescription Drug Practices

A new data report compiled by independent newsroom ProPublica has concluded that doctors who receive money from pharmaceutical companies are more inclined to prescribe that specific drug “more heavily than doctors without such financial ties.” The researchers determined that the trend was noted for 50 popular and expensive brand-name drugs covered by Medicare Part D, including medicines that treat diabetes, glaucoma, asthma, constipation, cholesterol and other common ailments. A ProPublica article released on December 20 stated that “the financial interactions include payments for delivering promotional talks, consulting and receiving sponsored meals and travel.”

A Recap of ProPublica’s Findings

The public reporting group studied “the 50 most-prescribed brand-name drugs in Medicare for which drugmakers had made payments to doctors in 2016.” Thirty-eight of the drugs have annual costs exceeding $1,000 per patient, and many are included on the list of costly Medicare Part D drugs.

  • For 32 of the drugs, at least 10 percent of doctors prescribing the medication received payments tied to the drug from the company that made it.
  • For 46 of the drugs in 2016, doctors who received payments for the drug prescribed more of it compared with doctors who did not.
  • On average, doctors who received payments prescribed 58 percent more of that drug than doctors who did not.

ProPublica’s public database, Dollars for Docs, can be accessed for patients interested in learning how much their doctors are being paid by drug or device companies.

Patients May Be Hurting from Expensive Prescription Drugs

This is not the first time research has tied financial gains to a doctor’s overall prescribing habits. Three years ago, ProPublica found a relationship between the total dollar value of a doctor’s interactions with prescription drug and medical device companies and the overall percentage of brand-name drugs prescribed to their patients.

Stacie B. Dusetzina, associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, advised ProPublica on the design of its data analysis. She was quoted in the ProPublica article arguing, “If there really were innovations and real benefits that were accruing to patients for a new treatment, it shouldn’t take so much spending by the company to get the word out. I wonder if promotion is really to try to push products that have a much less substantial benefit because they’re not gaining the market share naturally.”

Physician misuse of drugs that are expensive may not be necessary for some patients and can delay the treatment progress or promote further well-being. The consequences can be significant, as some patients decide to stop taking expensive drugs prescribed to them as a result of their doctor’s greed.

Preventable Health Problems Due to Prescription Medication Errors

When a medication mistake leads to a serious injury or death, patients and families can be left devastated. They may be eligible for compensation, including medical costs associated with the injury as well as punitive damages. If you suffered an injury due to the mistake or unethical practices of a doctor, request a free consultation with a Levin & Perconti attorney by calling (312) 332-2872.

Also read: Why Are Insurers Requiring Consumers to Take Brand Name Drugs at a Higher Cost Than Generics?


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