It certainly seems like doctors who take money from pharmaceutical companies would prescribe more brand-name drugs, but there's never been proof of that. That is until an extensive analysis by ProPublica, which found that the more pharmaceutical money a doctor accepts, the more brand-name medicines they prescribe to patients. That's despite generic drugs usually working as well as their more expensive brand-name counterparts and garnering similar levels of customer satisfaction. “It again confirms the prevailing wisdom … that there is a relationship between payments and brand-name prescribing,” an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School tells ProPublica. "Hopefully we’re getting past the point where people will say, ‘Oh, there’s no evidence that these relationships change physicians’ prescribing practices.'"
ProPublica looked at records of payments from pharmaceutical companies and compared them to Medicare's records of doctor prescriptions for 2014. They found something as innocuous as a pharmaceutical company picking up the check for a meal changed doctors' prescription habits. The analysis showed doctors who took payments were two to three times more likely to prescribe brand-name drugs at "exceptionally high rates." And the problem is widespread. Of doctors who wrote at least 1,000 prescriptions in 2014, nine in 10 cardiologists took payments, as did seven in 10 internists and family practitioners. One doctor says it's gotten to the point where doctors actually have to work to not take payments from pharmaceutical companies. Read the full story here. (Read more pharmaceutical industry stories.)