Pharmaceutical firms have paid millions of dollars to Utah doctors and other health care professionals for speaking fees, consulting, research, travel and meals, a major database project shows.
In a new update to its ongoing Dollars for Docs project, the non-profit news agency ProPublica reports at least $7.5 million has been paid to Utah recipients by 12 big drug companies over the past two years. Data was compiled from the websites of companies that have begun disclosing such information, mostly due to lawsuit settlements. More companies, representing about 60 percent of the United States pharmaceutical market, still are keeping their payments secret.
This searchable database allows you to look up your doctors to see whether they’ve taken any money from drug companies. Searches can be filtered by reason for payment (speaking, consulting, etc.), city, drug company, payment totals, and so on. Here’s the starting Utah page if you want to try.
I called up data on three specialists I’ve seen over the years. Two were paid for “combined” services plus meals. A third raked in $4,500 for speaking.
Knowing that the doctor you’re depending on for unbiased advice about a medication may be padding his or her income with checks from the manufacturer has to give you pause. Even a free rubber-chicken dinner looks bad. Just the appearance of monetary benefit for a doctor raises an ethical flag.
Is that doctor going to be more inclined to push that drug? The money talks, in my mind. One of the doctors whose data I checked told me once that he got into medicine because it allows him “to be compassionate.” It also gives him a good living, which is fine. But I’ll be skeptical of claims to purity if my doctor has any paid relationships with drug firms.