Pharmaceutical companies are now being forced by the federal government to publicly disclose the names of physicians whom they pay for various services such as lecturing at medical meetings about their products (see: What We’ve Learned From Four Years of Diving Into Dollars for Docs). I had never given much thought to exactly which drugs physicians were being paid to promote until I came across this article (see: These Are The Drugs Doctors Get Paid The Most To Promote). Below is an excerpt from it:
In the last five months of 2013, drug makers spent almost $20 million trying to convince physicians and teaching hospitals to give their freshly-patented drugs to patients, but many of them are near-copies of existing drugs that treat the same conditions. A hefty portion are also available as generics, chemically identical copies that work just as well at a fraction of the price. And still others have serious side effects that only became apparent after they were approved by the FDA. That's all according to a thorough analysis from ProPublica's Charles Ornstein and Ryann Grochowski Jones, who combed through federal data on payments made by pharmaceutical and medical device companies to doctors and teaching hospitals and released publicly for the first time last fall under the Affordable Care Act (see: Vying for Market Share, Companies Heavily Promote ‘Me Too’ Drugs). That data is now available....on the government website Open Payments. So why are companies paying so much to try to get doctors to prescribe their products? In a word: competition.In ProPublica's list of the top 20 drugs that companies are paying the most to promote, nine had a competitor also ranked within the top 20 that treated the same condition.
All of this is so very obvious when you think about it. Pharmaceutical companies are not going to pay doctors to promote drugs for which there is little or no competition in the market. There is no value associated with such payments. Paying physicians is only worthwhile for "me-too" drugs that are copies of successful drugs already available and drugs with competition from lower priced generics. Let's hope that the publication of the names of the physicians on the receiving end of such payments will discourage this shady practice. I am enough of a realist to know that some physicians won't be dissuaded by the published lists -- that's one of the ways that they make a living. I hope that the majority of physicians, however, will now do the right thing.