What happens when data links device company payments with physician decisions?

Laura Dyrda -   Print  |

Physician relationships with pharmaceutical and device companies are under scrutiny again, this time among eye surgeons.

The New York Times reports Genentech is under fire for inappropriate relationships with ophthalmologists. The company's cancer drug Avastin cost $50 per dose, but then the company introduced an equivalent drug, Lucentis, costing $2,000 per dose, which became one of the most expensive treatments for Medicare.


Here are five quick facts about the situation:


• Lucentis cost around $1 billion per year
• Studies show Lucentis didn't have a "significant advantage" over alternatives
• Many top billing physicians were among the highest-paid Genentech consultants
• Reports shows even "modest payments" can have influence over behavior
• Online federal databases showed information about the ophthalmologists, including who used the drug at higher percentages than their peers


According to the New York Times, "The data raises questions about whether financial relationships between doctors and drug companies influence treatment decisions, even though physicians maintain they cannot be swayed."


This has been a central question over the past few years, as pharmaceutical and device company payments for speaking about the product, advising on product design and other relationships have been under more scrutiny. Earlier this year, the federal government made its database reporting financial relationships between companies and physicians live online for anyone to see.


Thus far, local media outlets have reported the news about which surgeons in their communities were highly paid or performing a higher percentage of surgeries than others, but it's unclear whether patients are going to these databases on their own and make decisions based on their findings.


Additionally, the Office of the Inspector General has also released a negative report on physician-owned distributorships and is currently investigating a POD and associated physicians.


More articles on physicians:
7 trends for physician compensation
How spine patient treatment care pathways are changing—For the better?
Which law regulating the spine industry would spine surgeons change?

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