A Pharma payment a day keeps your doctor’s finances OK

Few days went by last year when New Hampshire nephrologist Ana Stankovic didn’t receive a payment from a drug company.

All told, 29 different pharmaceutical companies paid her $594,363 in 2014, mostly for promotional speaking and consulting, but also for travel expenses and meals, according to data released…detailing payments by drug and device companies to U.S. doctors and teaching hospitals.

Search for your own doctor on ProPublica’s updated Dollars for Docs database.

Stankovic’s earnings were certainly high, ranking her about 250th among 606,000 doctors who received payments nationwide last year. What was more remarkable, though, was that she received payments on 242 different days — nearly every workday of last year.

Reached by telephone Tuesday, Stankovic declined to comment.

That doctors receive big money from the pharmaceutical industry is no surprise. The new data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that such interactions are widespread, with not only doctors, but thousands of dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors receiving at least one industry payment from August 2013 to December 2014.

What is being seen for the first time now is how ingrained pharmaceutical companies and their sales reps are in the lives of those who write prescriptions for their products. A ProPublica analysis found that 768 doctors received payments on more than half of the days in 2014. More than 14,600 doctors received payments on at least 100 days in 2014…

The doctor with the second-highest number of interactions with drug and device reps, John Fritz, of Jersey City, N.J., logged payments on 256 days last year. His payments totaled $232,003. Fritz was indicted in June for referring patients to a medical imaging company from 2006 to 2013 in exchange for about $500,000 in kickbacks. He was charged with fraud and bribery, according to a release from the state attorney general’s office. A woman who answered the phone at his office on Tuesday said he declined to comment.

Dr. Aaron Kesselheim said that to have such extensive contact with industry reps can indicate that doctors are getting their information about the drugs they prescribe from the companies that make them, and not from impartial sources. “There’s good evidence that that affects prescribing practices and physician behavior.”…

All told, 1,617 companies reported 15.7 million payments valued at $9.9 billion. Nearly all of those payments — 14.9 million — were classified as “general payments,” covering promotional speaking, consulting, meals, travel and royalties. They totaled $3.5 billion over the 17-month period.

There were far fewer research payments, 826,000, but they were valued at $4.8 billion. The remaining payments related to ownership or investment interests that doctors had in companies. Research and ownership payments are currently not shown in Dollars for Docs.

Keep on rocking in the Free World. And while you’re at it – keep your eyes and ears open for greater understanding of the depth of resistance, core motives for opposition, to affordable healthcare for Americans.

Follow the money.

One thought on “A Pharma payment a day keeps your doctor’s finances OK

  1. Consumer says:

    ProPublica ought to be ashamed of itself for disparaging the innocent and misinforming the public with an unsubstantiated allegation. Their doctor witch-hunts are all about aggrandizing ProPublica’s fledgling media enterprise — even if that means throwing media ethics (and a bevy of innocent physicians) under the bus. If Mr. Ornstein thinks there’s a problem with pharma funding research, I propose he kindly refuse to use the products of that research — medications that have the power to one day save his life. Furthermore, speaking for pharmaceutical companies leads to better informed physicians who provide better patient care and become up-to-date on cutting-edge treatment methods. Think about it — you’re getting doctors to stay after hours on a weekday evening — instead of seeing their spouse and kids, they’re listening to a work-related lecture until 8 or 9 PM — the doctors aren’t being paid, and they’re learning how to better serve their patients, and Mr. Ornstein has the audacity to suggest that the physician delivering the lecture should do it all for free. In the fictional world where physicians are volunteers who somehow still provide for their families, pigs fly and hell freezes over. America is the land of innovative, moral capitalism — and if ProPublica has a problem with that, perhaps China, North Korea, and Russia would be better fits for its brand of journalism.

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