HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Conflicts of Interest? Doctors and Pharmaceutical Ties

Washington Post discuss a sensitive question many patients find themselves wondering but perhaps not directly asking their doctors - what companies their doctors have relationships with and how deep those ties run.  One market research company estimated that pharmaceutical sales spends $20 billion a year marketing directly to doctors.

As a response in 2003, D.C. enacted legislation to improve transparency among drug manufacturers. A national effort was initiated this year:

In January, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) introduced legislation -- the Physician Payments Sunshine Act -- that would require drug and medical device manufacturers to report payments to any physician of more than $100, whether as a gift or for research purposes, and to publish the information online.

But then again, complete skepticism of doctor-pharmaceutical sales relationships may not always be fair, as Chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic points out:

"We can't lose sight of the fact that it is potentially beneficial [to the public] for industry to interact with physicians, because someone needs to develop these drugs. I work with many pharmaceutical companies, and I believe it is my responsibility as a physician to facilitate the development of new therapies."

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