Physician Groups React to Report on Pharma Payments to Providers

Jeff Elliott for HealthLeaders Media, October 25, 2010

Physician groups provided mixed reaction to an investigative report from journalism group ProPublica and its media partners indicating that more than 17,000 doctors and other healthcare professionals accepted nearly $258 million from seven major drug companies in 2009 and 2010.

Of those medical professionals compensated for speaking engagements and presentations about drug benefits and applications, 400 raked in more than $100,000 in 2009 and 2010, with two physicians topping $300,000 in payments, ProPublica found. The report notes, however, that "receiving payments isn't necessarily wrong, but it does raise ethical issues." 

Leaders from groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and American College of Physicians (ACP) acknowledged that while payments do occur--and are completely legal—what is depicted in the report is not an accurate portrayal of how most healthcare professionals, even those that have formal relationships with a pharmaceutical company or other supplier, practice medicine.

While AMA declined to comment on the report specifically, it noted that it has clear ethical guidelines stating that accepting cash from industry—drug, device and equipment companies—is not acceptable, and that any gifts a physician receives should be of minimal value.

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