83.8% of doctors report some type of relationship with drug companies, but it is falling

83.8% of doctors report some type of relationship with drug companies, but it is falling

With 83.8% of doctors self-reporting some kind of relationship with drug and medical device companies, their link with both industries, especially pharmaceuticals, is still considerable, say researchers from Boston, USA, in an article published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). The authors believe there should be a national system of disclosure which openly reveals doctor-industry ties.

Even though the relationship between physicians and medical industries is extensive, it seems to have dropped since 2004.

The authors explain as background to the article:

The medical profession has embraced the importance of placing patient welfare ahead of financial benefits to physicians in clinical decision making. One tenet of medical professionalism is managing conflicts of interest related to physician-industry relationships.

Below is a comparison between a 2004 survey and the latest one, carried out in 2009:

  • 2004 - over 80% of doctors received food and drinks from the industry at their place of work

    2009 - 70.6% received food and drinks from the industry in the workplace

  • 2004 - over ¾ received samples of medications

    2009 - just under one third received samples of medications

  • 2004 - over one third got money for professional meetings or continuing education

    2009 - 18.3% received money for similar things

  • 2004 - over ¼ got money for speaking, clinical trials or consulting

    2009 - 14.1% received money for similar things

  • 2004 - the median number of meetings between doctor and pharma representative was 3 per month

    2009 - the number of monthly meetings dropped to 2

The authors explain that after 2004, actions were taken to limit the ties between the medical industries and medical profession, at institutional, state and national levels. The 2009 survey involving specialists and primary care physicians (General Practitioners) was carried out by Eric Campbell, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and team. 2,938 doctors were approached, of whom 1,891 completed the survey (64.4%).

The authors wrote:

On every measure the percentage of physicians with industry relationships was significantly lower in 2009 than in 2004. For example, the percentage of physicians accepting samples decreased from 78 percent in 2004 to 64 percent in 2009.

The closeness of ties between medical professionals and the industry varied according to specialization; 92.8% of cardiologists had some kind of relationship, compared to 79.8% of psychiatrists. The authors also detected a variation according to type of practice.

The authors wrote:

For example, physicians in solo or two-person practices and group practices were significantly more likely than those in hospital and medical school settings to receive samples, reimbursements and gifts. However, physicians in medical schools were most likely to receive payments from industry.

(conclusion) These data clearly show that physician behavior, at least with respect to managing conflicts of interest, is mutable in a relatively short period," they conclude. "However, given that 83.8 percent of physicians have physician-industry relationships, it is clear that industry still has substantial financial links with the nation's physicians. These findings support the ongoing need for a national system of disclosure of physician-industry relationships.

"Physician Professionalism and Changes in Physician-Industry Relationships From 2004 to 2009"

Eric G. Campbell, PhD; Sowmya R. Rao, PhD; Catherine M. DesRoches, DrPh; Lisa I. Iezzoni, MD; Christine Vogeli, PhD; Dragana Bolcic-Jankovic, MA; Paola D. Miralles, BS

Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(20):1820-1826. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2010.383


Section Issues On Medicine: Medical practice