October 19th, 2010
10:42 AM ET

Does your doc get money from drug companies?

There has long been mystery surrounding how much, and to whom, drug companies give money.

Now, ProPublica has put together all of these disclosures that have been appearing recently on the Web. The resulting project, called Dollars for Docs reveals that about $258 million worth of compensation from seven companies went to health care providers in 2009 and 2010.

The team of investigative journalists found that 17,700 providers received such payments. Most of the money went to physicians, but nurses and pharmacists were also included, ProPublica said. The reasons for this money included speaking, consulting, business travel and meals.

More than 380 doctors received at least $100,000 from drug companies, according to the research.

You can look up your doctor in ProPublica's database to see if he or she received any of this money. It's not necessarily bad if money was paid, but it may raise some ethical issues, the website said.

The dark side becomes apparent in this article, which reflects an investigation revealing "hundreds of doctors on company payrolls who had been accused of professional misconduct, were disciplined by state boards or lacked credentials as researchers or specialists."

soundoff (168 Responses)
  1. Hospitalist

    I make a very good living as a physician. I live in an upscale neighborhood and have some nice things. Most of my neighbors do as well or better than me without going to 11 years of very difficult training and without huge loans. When non premed students were partying on the weekends (and many on the weekdays) I was in the campus library all day and would find an unlocked building so I could study past midnight. I wanted to do it and have no regrets but I deserve to make a good living. I love what I do by the way. There are many truely wonderful physicians. There are many bad ones. No doctor should make huge money from the drug companies. It is a conflict of interest. Best scenario is they should be paid a fair hourly wage ( equal to what a doctor of their specialty earns per hour) to prepare their talk and complete it. The doctors are being bribed and find it difficult to say no. The drug companies and the pharmacies are the root of much of the cost of medical care. Just look at the biggest, nicest building in every town you go to- it's the pharmacy and there's one on each corner. Every time I go to a small town, especially a poor one I look for the nicest buildings! They are all run down except the pharmacies are huge, beautiful, and new. OPEN YOUR EYES.

    October 19, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Constantine

    Heck Yeah – any one with half a brain knows this

    October 19, 2010 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Constantine

      lets say i want pills to help me to improve concentration – the doc will always give me a name brand rx because they get extra payments if they are good prescribers – and Pens!!!

      October 19, 2010 at 21:42 | Report abuse |
  3. Marcus

    The number of idiotic comments on this thread makes me want to throw up. The story specifically found that 17,700 providers received payments from drug companies. How many physicians are there in the USA? A quick Google search yields about 800,000 to 1.5 million. So, taking a lower number to be conservative 17,700 / 850,000 = 0.02 or 2% of all physicians in the USA received a payment from a drug company. That's only 1 in 50 docs, folks. And most of them probably have some sort of research role. In the past decade or so, this has become pretty highly regulated.

    Drugs are still big business, though. A large chunk of health care costs are due to pharmaceuticals. The other big reducable cost of health care is tort reform. The whole reason why we get so many drugs pushed by docs is because that's what the American public asks for. How many of you wait to be seen by doc for your sore throat and aren't happy when he/she says you have a viral infection and to go home? Haha, you want antibiotics, right? And if you weren't the kind that wanted the antibiotics, then you are the one who will sue because that viral infection became worse bacterial infection later, and you retrospectively know you should have had that (medically useless at the time) antibiotic sooner. It's a rather simple example but you get the point. Patient's in our overweight (obese), smoking, drinking, drug using society don't even want to know how to live healthier lives, let alone put the doctor's advice into practice. Countless times I talk to people about quitting smoking, drinking, exercise, etc. Our bodies are "fearfully and wonderfully made", not evolved, and we have to treat them appropriately.

    Yes, I'm a doctor. No, I have never taken drug co. money.

    Some troll here is going to flame even this reponse....

    October 19, 2010 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • triedandtired

      goodness Marcus thank you. A reasonable response instead of inane, ignorant comments. It might seem strange to post this on CNN's little wall but no one can trust the media–any of them! CNN, Fox, anyone. People say they don't trust big pharm because they are just in it for the money? Guess who else is a business makin' some money...?? CNN and company.

      I can't believe I ever read the comments on any of these articles because they just make me dumber by the moment, but thank goodness there are a few people that make sense out there.

      October 19, 2010 at 22:06 | Report abuse |
  4. Marcus

    @Constantine: why are you getting the name brand rx? Why aren't you getting a generic instead? Your own fault. You can ask the pharmacist or your doc.

    October 19, 2010 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cursam

      when I found out that the medicine w/c is highly and strongly prescribed by my doctor was sky high, I asked the pharmacist for a generic or at least a cheaper brand. But the pharmacist told me that they're not allowed to give aternative brands, when I asked why? she said that the doctor that issued the prescription will get angry. When I asked her if she does know that it's prohibited by the law, she seek assistance from her supervisor and her supervisor irked at her but courteously said to me and I quote "I'm sorry sir but we ran out of stocks of other brands of that particular medicine."

      It was either the pharmacist was just too honest or just new to her job that she didn't know yet the magic spell. I just hope that she was lucky enough to spend another day for the job.

      Aside from the mind energizing suggestion that other [cheaper] brand might not work, I think the "conspiracy theory" is not limited to the doctor and drug companies. What d'yo think, Marcus?

      October 22, 2010 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
  5. Marcus

    BTW, since this thread has degenerated into doctor bashing and doc's incomes: people, do some research before spewing. I can't complain: I'm in a well reimbursed sub-specialty, and do procedures that no one else in my geographic area knows how to do. Think about this: I'm building a house, my electrian bills me $60/hour. At that hourly wage, if he worked 60-80 hours/week like most MD's, he would make quite a bit more yearly income than most doctors, for much less daily stress, and a small fraction of the education. Don't hear too many people bashing electricians on this thread. Or plumbers for that matter. Same story. Just interesting examples......

    October 19, 2010 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ella from NY

      My husband is a doctor. He's a fabulous one-One which other doctors say is a great diagnostician. He's American born and studied at an Ivy League college, went to a top Medical school, did a year of research after his residency but before his 3 year fellowship. All of his buddies from college were doing "very well" and making their way up the corporate ladder for almost 8 years before my husband made more than $40,000 per year–and yes, he had lots of debt. Noone has worked more hours to get to the point in their life where their salary is where it "should be" than my husband. Add weekend coverage, overnights in the hospital, late nights, early appointments...Did dentists, lawyers, hedge fund officers, top sales people in different fields have to "pay the price" to get to a point where every shitty little meal at a dinner meeting (rubber chicken) is a point of discussion? How lame it is to think that because a Pharma rep gave him a pen/ cup/ pad he will write a script for that company. It is for this reason my husband has decided to give up practicing medicine. When we boomers find ourselves in the ER with chest pain, we will be wishing there was a Dr. like my husband taking care of us. And, so will all of the VERY highly paid guys on the guernies next to us–even though they were the ones free to spend time coaching their kids little league games and helping their kids with homework when my husband wasn't able to get out of the office till 8:00pm every night and every other weekend, including holidays. How dare anyone say such horrible things about my husband. He's not on any "list", but each and every person commenting on this article should just think, for a moment, about my husband's devotion to medicine and his credentials for treating patients when you get into the money talk. Believe me, when my husband gets someone's family member thru a massive heart attack over a period of 3 days, that family really DOES think of him as a God. Wouldn't you? I did when drs. were treating my mom so wonderfully. Doesn't anyone out there have any compliments instead of insults. I think Drs. should be the HIGHEST paid people on earth. If you were sick or you had a loved one going thru a terrible sickness and your devoted dr. showed you great care, wouldn't you be complimenting them and not coming down on them about how much money he has earned over his shortened career (compared to his peer group)?

      October 19, 2010 at 22:37 | Report abuse |
    • KT

      To Ella:
      God is God. A physician is not a God. Sorry to disappoint you but, to me, your husband is not a God. An auto mechanic works on my car, a physician is a mechanic who works on my body. A physician is a type of mechanic, not a God,

      October 20, 2010 at 06:46 | Report abuse |
    • cursam

      "BTW, since this thread has degenerated into doctor bashing and doc's incomes"

      We're NOT "bashing doctors income, what we're condemning are doctors pushing branded drugs that are 10x the price instead of cheaper medicines w/c simimlary and even more effective, in exchange of huge amounts and other [luxurious] freebies.

      I am not surprised when you said and I quote "Yes, I'm a doctor. No, I have never taken drug co. money." coz you had it as an income.

      October 22, 2010 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
  6. jarjar

    Really??? I'm a doctor and don't see any of this money. Can someone point me in the direction where I can get some of this???

    October 19, 2010 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fig1024

      see, people always take the money. Just cause they aren't getting it now doesn't mean they are honest people. As soon as there's a chance, they take it.

      October 20, 2010 at 01:20 | Report abuse |
  7. Tom

    Lets see, 17,700 (an overestimate because as the article states there were also nurses and pharmacists) of the US's 1.5 million doctors took money from drug companies.

    That is a whopping 1.1%. Scandalous CNN, just scandalous.

    Assuming all doctors took money and it was divided equally, that is $190 per doctor per year. Clearly they are all driving Maseratis on the dime of the drug companies.

    Look, the high pressure sales BS that big pharma pulls is over the top, but THIS is absolutely tame to what doctors got from them 10-30 years ago (free vacations for the entire family to Hawaii anyone?). Drug companies used to give new medical students stethoscopes / bags / otoscopes / books and other items which were not only extremely useful, were very much appreciated by broke students who now shell out an extra couple thousand dollars their first week of medical school to buy these things. Now doctors cannot accept as much as a pen from them without being listed as taking a gift.

    Finally, the article attempts to paint impropriety where there probably is very little. Most of these physicians freely admit and state that they accept payments from drug companies to do talks. Some of the highest paid are the ones who actually developed the drugs and are being paid by the company to go educate other docs about what it does and that is often nearly a full time job in itself. Yes, absolutely it is inappropriate to just have a drug company drop $10,000 in your bank account and say "use brand ___", but that is not at all what is happening here. I know a doc who does talks for a certain drug company because he really believes in their product. He donates every cent they give him to an indigent health clinic (and actually quite a bit more), but his name is still on that list.

    October 19, 2010 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mot

      WOW! a one in a million? OR, just one of the millions of hypocits.

      October 22, 2010 at 12:37 | Report abuse |
  8. yak yak

    I am a former pharm rep and now in medical school and this article is completely biased and misleading. It doesn't say what the money was paid out for or why doctors were accepting the money. The money that these pharmaceutical companies pay is under regulation already by a program called PHARMACODE. All can look it up and Eli Lilly for one has posted this information for the public to see. This money goes to physicians whom speak to other physicians about pharmaceutical products and advantages and disadvantages of medications. For nurses most are used as nurse educators to help educate patients that may not otherwise be able to received diabetes education for example. Many physicians like to hear an educated and well spoken individual who knows about specific medication and whom better to do so in some cases then a pharmacist. Everyone looks at the physician and the pharmaceutical companies as the bad guys when in fact they should spend more time trusting and realizing how far medicine has come thanks to physicians enduring many years of education and debt just to help save a life. As for pharmaceutical companies no one really knows how much they are ridiculed even within the medical community. Know one take the time to see where all the money goes but next time a debate comes around you should ask your political candidate how much money the government puts into funding research for new innovative medications; you will find that the most new medications are going to be many millions of dollars and most will fail only to have one great drug that can save a patients life and save a pharmaceutical company to fight another day and continue its research. Final comment everyone should stop being so worried about medicine and realize that a physician/medical student would only put up with this much torment could only be doing it for one reason and that is for their knowledge gained to help a patient in the most crucial time.

    October 20, 2010 at 00:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Kevin

    Great article... I think it's an important reminder that we need to take control of our own health care decisions as there are outside influences. This is not to say that health care professionals are making poor decisions – I happen to be a health care professional – but health care is a complicated system and the only person that can truly make some of the decisions is the patient.


    October 20, 2010 at 01:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Hospitalist

    TO ELLA-
    I agree completely. The medical field is losing some of the best doctors. I could not have come any closer to quitting medicine. Fortunately I found a wonderful position as a hospitalist. I had a huge practice that was devastated when I left. Yes, I took a pay cut, so money has nothing to do with it whatsoever. I am curious if your husband left medicine what is he doing?

    October 20, 2010 at 07:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ella from NY

      Glad to know you are happy in your new position. My husband went on to get his MBA and now, ironically, he works for the Pharma industry. He is disillusioned by the tactics some VP's of Sales use to motivate their salepeople, but my husband stays clear of that stuff and only deals with high level physicians and researchers. He is very happy and satisfied, he's home nights and weekends, and gets great benefits like the rest of corporate America. When he had his practice, his overhead used to be tremendously high and the prospect of reimbursements decreasing every year just derailed his spirit. That, added to the decision that he wanted to see his kids grow up helped him decide to give up his very large practice. He misses many of his patients and they still ask about him. Perhaps one day he'll go back into an office setting, simply to see patients and leave, without the management issues or financial burdens.

      October 21, 2010 at 00:05 | Report abuse |
    • Ella why?

      "How lame it is to think that because a Pharma rep gave him a pen/ cup/ pad he will write a script for that company. It is for this reason my husband has decided to give up practicing medicine."

      Exactly, "HOW LAME"..then WHY? gave up the thing that he love the most? if he din't do anything fishy, if he's COMPLETELY innocent, then WHY get affected. Did it show how LAME he was to get affected by LAME allegations? OR, it was not [only] your husband who wrote a script for pharmas, but, YOU're writing a LAME SCRIPT in here.

      And one more thing, you've also said and I quote, "Believe me, when my husband gets someone's family member thru a massive heart attack over a period of 3 days, that family really DOES think of him as a God."

      What if, what happened was completely the other way around? that for example the patient was dead and the family blamed your husband? would you've had said don't blame my husband coz it's God's will? wouldn't you? then after you made that statement, they'll still say, i think your husband is a God? would you still appreciate it?

      October 22, 2010 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
    • Ella why?

      P.S...your husband working in pharma industry DIDN'T sound "ironic" to me.

      October 22, 2010 at 13:48 | Report abuse |
    • Vicky

      Review by Joy Reznor for Rating: I've enjoyed some of Eric Stanze's prvoieus films (ICE FROM THE SUN, SCRAPBOOK, etc.) and when I heard he teamed up with Robin Garrels (who wrote and starred in INSANIAC, which is another film I enjoyed) to make this movie, I thought it would be interesting to see.You can tell that both Stanze and Garrels are big fans of David Lynch with its bizarre, expressive storyline that doesn't always make sense (although the pieces do all add up if you think about it) and interesting well-composed visuals. The movie also has a very rich electronic soundtrack (which you can listen to separately on the DVD on an isolated track very cool) which adds to the movie's twisted ambience. I was also impressed by the performances. DJ Vivona, who was great in ICE FROM THE SUN, does good work here, and Eli DeGeer gave a solid, emotional performance, but I thought Jason Allen Wolfe totally stole the show. Where did this guy come from? He did an awesome job in this and I was excited to read that he has a role in Stanze latest flick, DEADWOOD PARK. Can't wait to check that one out!CHINA WHITE SERPENTINE has lots of skin, solid acting, creative camera work, and a little blood thrown in for good measure. What else can you ask for in a low-budget flick? A great collaboration between two of the indie scenes more creative filmmakers. Check it out!

      November 16, 2012 at 00:44 | Report abuse |
  11. ChristineWithRegence

    All parties, including drug companies, have a role to play in helping to control health care costs. Check out Whatstherealcost.org for what you can do and what the health care system should be doing.

    October 21, 2010 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Joel Gelman, M.D.

    I personally do not accept any money from drug companies or other industry sources to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest. I do think that relationships between industry and the medical community benefits patient care in certain situation, one example being research trials. When I present my own research findings at professional meetings or submit my surgical outcomes for publication, I and others who publish are required to disclose any outside sources of funding or support. This information is disclosed. Therefore, the audience is made aware of the relationship and can take that into account when considering the accuracy of the data.

    What I consider a bigger problem is what is happening on the internet. Many websites providing health information are advertising products or have financial interests in recommended treatments, and the disclosure of these conflicts of interest are not required.

    In several places within my own website


    I make a point of stating that I have no affiliations with industry, and receive no income from the sale of any drugs or products or accept any advertising. However, it is very common for patients to see me and provide copies of information downloaded from the internet. Often, these medical websites do not exist to provide unbiased information, but rather to promote product sales. I always encourage my patients to look closely and consider the motivations of those who provide medical information, and perhaps the readers of this comment will do the same.

    November 3, 2010 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. florida girl

    This is a hugely inflammatory article. Drug companies might bring lunch or pens into the office, but most of the docs don't even know who brought it in, really. They are too busy treating their patients! If a company has a dinner to educate a doctor on their product, that would technically be considered taking money (I bet most people don't know that you are not allowed to bring spouses to these gatherings like you could years ago), but the dinners are a very good way to learn about a new product, etc, that a physician might not have time to sit down and study during a day in the office. Many people who do take money from the companies are running clinical trials (all those drug enrollment programs you see-if you are over 18 and have XX problem, etc). This is a highly labor intensive process with much paperwork and deserves compensation to the physician and clinic that assists in a trial. They are not supposed to be biased, just do the trial and turn in the data. Without that, it would be impossible to have clinical trials–so be careful when you look at who is receiving money, if we want to continue to have progress in the US. Of course there are some bad docs-there are in every profession, but most are following the new, extremely strict rules to the letter as no one wants to get in trouble for taking a pen they shouldn't have!

    November 5, 2010 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. coolturk

    I think it has become unreasonable, the amount of scrutiny that doctors are facing today. I have a brother who sees 55 patients a day, a number considered to be an achievement, as many doctors just don't have the mental capacity to tough out so many hours. Now that the dinners have been banned, it means that every drug company that pays a visit to the doctor's office, has to wait, drop off a sample, and get something signed that they stopped by. How does this stressful time optimal to fairly convey important drug data to an overwhelmed doctor, while standing at reception. I understand ethics, if you're denying trips, strip joints and activities of that nature, but please, a quite dinner to update the doctor under a more civilized atmosphere. Does the government mean to say that doctors can't afford their own dinners and that a steak or some lobstor dish is going to tip the scales when otherwise it would not have. I think it's tme to leave the doctors alone. They live on a battle field everyday to cover their asses, and we wonder why so much of our talent is either not going into the field or just leaving the country all together, where they can once again get the respect they deserve.

    November 9, 2010 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mark

    I believe it would be unfair and unethical practice. I see a lot of under budgeted patients are suffered by the high cost of drugs and healthcare insurances due to ridiculous selling practice!!. It is sad to see, mostly patients went bankrupted and lose their assets. It actually is far worse than previous years. My point is Drug or healthcare companies use patients to pay more on drugs or healthcare services for ridiculous demands, seem not right.

    December 8, 2010 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
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