By Charles Ornstein, ProPublica
Evidence is mounting that doctors who receive as little as one meal from a drug company tend to prescribe more expensive, brand-name medications for common ailments than those who don’t.
A study published online Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine found significant evidence that doctors who received meals tied to specific drugs prescribed a higher proportion of those products than their peers. And the more meals they received, the greater share of those drugs they tended to prescribe relative to other medications in the same category.
The researchers did not determine if there was a cause-and-effect relationship between payments and prescribing, a far more difficult proposition, but their study adds to a growing pile of research documenting a link between the two.
A ProPublica story published in March found that doctors who took payments from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries prescribed a higher proportion of brand-name medications than those who didn’t. It also found that the more money a doctor received, the higher the percentage of brand-name drugs he or she prescribed, on average.
Similarly, a Harvard Medical School study published in May found that Massachusetts physicians prescribed a larger proportion of brand-name statins — the category of drugs that treat high cholesterol — the more industry money they received. There was no significant increase in brand-name prescribing for those who received less than $2,000.
What makes the current study different is that it looked at specific drugs.
In an editor’s note, Dr. Robert Steinbrook wrote…