Docs Who Accept Drug Companies' Money More Likely to Prescribe Their Drugs

John Commins, April 10, 2018

Compared to physicians who receive no money, those who were paid for meals and lodging from drug makers had higher odds of prescribing that company's cancer drugs.

Physicians who accepted money from drug companies for meals, talks, and travel were more likely to prescribe those companies’ drugs for two cancer types, a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine shows.

"The main takeaway is that oncologists who received money from a pharmaceutical company were more likely to choose that company's drug the following year," said study lead author Aaron Mitchell, MD, a fellow in the UNC School of Medicine Division of Hematology & Oncology.

Researchers analyzed prescriptions for Medicare patients with two cancers where there are multiple treatment options: metastatic renal cell cancer, and chronic myeloid leukemia.

"We wanted to look at cancer types for which there were several similar medications to choose from," Mitchell said. "Further, we wanted to look at cancer types where the different treatments would all be considered as 'standard of care' based on FDA approval and NCCN recommendation. RCC and CML and the associated drug sets best met these criteria.

They used publicly available data from 2013 to 2014 that was reported through Open Payments, a provision of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that required drug makers to disclose gifts or transfers in value greater than $10 to physicians and teaching hospitals.

Compared to physicians who received no money, those who were paid for meals and lodging from a drug maker had higher odds of prescribing that company's drug for metastatic renal cell carcinoma and for chronic myeloid leukemia.

For metastatic renal cell cancer, physicians who received any payment in 2013 had twice the odds of prescribing that company's drug, and for chronic myeloid leukemia physicians who received any general payment had 29% higher odds of prescribing that company's drug.

A review of specific drugs found a significant decrease in the use of the leukemia treatment imatinib when physicians received payments. Novartis makes both imatinib and another treatment, nilotinib.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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