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Slight drop reported in pharma pay to doctors

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted May 20, 2013

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Financial ties between drugmakers and Massachusetts physicians lessened between 2010 and 2011, according to a study posted online May 1 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers examined the mandated public reporting of payments and gifts to doctors by pharmaceutical and device manufacturers from the second half of 2009 to the end of 2011. Overall payments fell from $30.3 million in 2010 to $29.3 million in 2011, a 3.3% drop. Meanwhile, the number of physicians who received $50 or more in gifts or payments fell 9.3% to 5,921 in 2011, said the study (link).

The most frequent type of payment to doctors was in the form of food, despite a July 2009 Massachusetts law that banned most pharma-provided meals. The ban was overturned in July 2012, and now “modest meals” paid for by industry are permitted. About a quarter of physicians received at least one payment from 2009 to 2011, but there were differences by specialty. Six in 10 urologists received payments, as did most gastroenterologists and rheumatologists and nearly half of cardiologists. One in five family physicians received payments or gifts, as did about 19% of general internists and 12% of pediatricians. Nearly 90 cents of every dollar of industry payments was compensation for bona fide services. The state database did not break out whether those services were for marketing or research-and-development purposes.

In August, medical industry companies will be required under federal law to start tracking gifts and payments to doctors worth as little as $10. These “transfers of value” will be published in a searchable federal government database starting Sept. 30, 2014, as required by the Physician Payments Sunshine Act.

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