INDIANAPOLIS ‒ Ever wonder if your doctor has ties to a drug company? The investigative news outlet ProPublica has a database where you can look up payments to doctors coming from a drug or device manufacturer. On Wednesday, the it released a new report showing which hospitals have the most doctors taking these kinds of payments.
Indiana ranks 14th in the country in terms of the percentage of hospital-affiliated doctors taking industry payments.
In 2014, almost three out of four doctors in Indiana took a payment from a drug or device maker. Five percent received more than $5,000 worth. There’s even a doctor who took home nearly $2.5 million from a single company, more than any other doctor in the state.
The smallest payment ‒ besides zero ‒ was $1.92.
But Peter Schwartz, interim director of the Indiana University Center for Bioethics, says even the small payments matter. “All the research shows that when you accept a gift from somebody, no matter how small,” he says, “you will incur a feeling of indebtedness and will act later in ways that will benefit the one who gave you the gift.”
For instance, if a doctor gets a gift or meal from Merck or Pfizer he or she might be more likely to prescribe a Merck or Pfizer drug — even if it’s more expensive or less effective.
“That’s just not okay,” says Schwartz.
But Schwartz also says a payment doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an inappropriate relationship. If a patient is worried about a potential conflict of interest, he says, the best thing they can do is ask their doctor about it.