Study: 84% of Doctors Still Accept Handouts or Compensation from Drug & Device Makers

About 84% of doctors accept handouts from pharmaceutical/device companies.Although the number of physicians that accept gifts or money from drug and medical device manufacturers has fallen, the number is still significantly high according to a new study released this week. The new study involved nearly 1,900 physicians, specialists and surgeons, and it was very similar to a study performed in 2004.

Here are some of the findings…

In 2009, a total of 18% of doctors accepted drug company money for attending medical meetings/ongoing training. That number decreased from 35% in 2004.

In 2009, about 71% of doctors allowed drug companies to pay for food / drinks. That number dropped from 83% in 2004.

In 2009, a total of 64% of doctors accepted free drug samples. That number fell from 78% in 2004.

A high percentage of doctors accept handouts such as food and drink.

All in all, almost 84% of doctors, specialists and surgeons who were surveyed in 2009 accepted some type of gift or compensation from drug and device manufacturers. That total number stood at 94% in 2004.

Although progress has obviously been made in these areas, many professional medical groups are sure to be less than pleased with the latest study results. Many groups, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians and the Association of American Medical Colleges, have called for higher ethical standards. In fact, all of the above organizations have recommended that medical professionals bring a complete halt to accepting gifts, meals and free travel to educational conferences.

Within the last five years or so, many medical schools and teaching hospitals have adopted policies that forbid physicians to accept free drugs and food. Many allow interaction with pharmaceutical and device reps only within clinical areas.

However, private physicians have no regulations imposed upon them, are they are therefore more likely to accept handouts, according to the latest study. More than 90 percent of private physicians said they accepted gifts or money from industry. Those numbers dropped to 72 percent for medical professionals at a university and 71 percent for those at hospitals. Cardiologists were particularly fond of gifts and compensation, at a rate of 92 percent.

Many doctors get paid to speak or consult for various drug and device companies.Many doctors and other professionals refute the fact they are influenced by handouts. The study’s lead author, Eric G. Campbell, a professor at the Harvard Medical School, called this claim “hysterical.” He told Reuters that it‘s ludicrous for anyone to believe that drug companies would invest so much time and money in giving gifts if it didn’t work.

The study revealed that doctors who accept gifts tend to prescribe brand-name drugs at a higher rate, and U.S. regions with lower medical costs indicated a reduced incidence of drug and device company gift giving.

Although the following relationships are not necessarily rebuked at face value by the medical associations listed above, doctors nonetheless are performing various functions less often for drug and device companies. This includes speaking (fell to 8.6% in 2009 from 16% in 2004), consulting (fell to 6.7% from 18%) and serving on advisory boards (fell to 4.6 percent from 9%).

The latest study was carried out by the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital. It was funded by the New-York based Institute on Medicine as a Profession, and it was published in the medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

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