Originally published October 21, 2010 at 4:43 p.m., updated September 16, 2011 at 3:51 p.m.
EDITOR'S NOTE: :
ProPublica's initial online database contained about 30,000 payment reports that pharmaceutical companies have made to doctors and institutions. The contributions are for a variety of things, including research, consulting, and travel. The updated database contains more than half-a-million reports. The following story was published when the database was first released.
An NPR and ProPublica investigation found thousands of doctors in the U.S. are taking huge amounts of money from drug companies. Hundreds of those doctors practice in San Diego.
It’s not uncommon or illegal for doctors to accept money from drug companies. But is it ethical? And, do you as a patient want to know about it?
The NPR-ProPublica investigation looked at payments to more than 17,000 doctors by seven drug companies in 2009 and early 2010.
At least 283 of those doctors practice in San Diego. Ten of those doctors earned between $42,000 and $149,000 dollars from drug companies over the past 18 months.
Three of those San Diego doctors who earned between $74,000 and $150,00 from big pharmaceutical companies during that time are a pediatrician, a psychiatrist and internal medicine specialist.
Mike Kalichman, director of The Center for Ethics in Science and Technology, said researchers are required to disclose their financial sources—perhaps doctors should be required to do so too.
“If you’re in a practice of prescribing to patients and you’re receiving money from the companies that you’re prescribing the drugs from then it seems you should be comfortable talking about that,” said Kalichman.
Kalichman also suggests patients ask their doctors about it directly.
"Not all patients will feel comfortable doing this, but I would encourage patients to ask their doctors about the source of the money,” he said.
I spoke with one of the top paid San Diego doctors on the Data base. He didn't want his named used, but told me he supported disclosure of drug company payments to patients.
As part of several federal court settlements, seven major drug companies, including GlaxcoSmithKline, Lilly, and Merk agreed to disclose how much money they pay and the names of the doctors they pay.
Since, there are about 80 major drug companies selling in the U.S., the number of doctors who get paid are thought to be much higher than the 17,700 listed on the Dollars for Doctors Data Base.