Pharmaceutical :: Physician ties to drug industry stronger than ever

Despite the potential for conflict of interest, virtually all practicing physicians in the U.S. have some form of relationship with pharmaceutical manufacturers but the nature and extent of those relationships vary, depending on the kind of practice, medical specialty, patient mix, and professional activities, reports a study in the April 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the first national survey to gauge the predictors and depth of relationships between industry and practicing physicians, 94 percent of doctors report that they have at least one type of relationship with the drug industry, mostly in the form of receiving food in the workplace or prescription samples.

However, more than one third are reimbursed for costs associated with professional meetings or continuing medical education (CME), and more than a quarter receive honoraria for consulting, lecturing or enrolling patients in clinical trials, say researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital-Partners Health Care System, Yale University, and the University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia.

“Relationships with industry are a fundamental part of the way medicine is practiced today. The real questions relate to how much is too much and how far is too far. It appears that these relationships benefit physicians and industry but the important policy question is to what extent do these relationships benefit patients in the terms of the care they receive,” says lead researcher and co-author Eric Campbell, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine at the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.