Is Your Doctor Taking Money from Drug Companies?
In a recent TEDMed talk, medical professional Leana Wen got into the startling lack of transparency between doctors and patients. Right now, doctors don’t have to tell you if they’re taking money from drug companies. Here’s how to find out whether your doctor is getting big pharma money.
In her talk, Wen shares the story of how her mother, who was undergoing chemotherapy, accidentally discovered that her doctor was on a drug company’s payroll. The same company that made the chemo drugs she was taking. The discovery led Wen and her mother to question whether these were the right drugs. And the experience led Wen to question what our doctors should be disclosing to us.
The more Wen questioned this wall between doctors and patients, the more hostility she received from the medical community. Her email and Twitter account were hacked, and she received threats from fellow physicians.
Drug companies paying physicians for speaking on their behalf is nothing new. It’s a multibillion dollar industry that until recently we knew very little about. Drug companies paying doctors to advocate for them means big money for doctors and drug companies, but it sometimes means lower quality of care for patients.
Wen gets a lot deeper into the issue of trust in medicine, and I recommend taking 15 minutes to watch the whole talk. It’s an eye-opening glimpse into the doctor-patient relationship. She also shares a very useful tool that she’s created called Who’s My Doctor? Doctors who opt into this tool disclose important information like how they’re paid and their values when it comes to key health issues. But, as Wen discusses in her talk, getting doctors to opt in has been hard, and she’s met a lot of hostility around this tool.
Is your doctor taking money from drug companies? Find out!
As Wen discusses in her talk, your doctor doesn’t have to tell you whether he’s taking drug company money.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Investigative journalists at ProPublica report that we’re beginning to see more transparency from drug companies about which doctors are on their payrolls. At the same time, drug company payments to doctors have begun to drop dramatically.
ProPublica also has a very cool Dollars for Docs search tool that you can use to see if your doctor is taking money from drug companies. They have received data from 17 big pharmaceutical companies and are working on adding more. If your doctor won’t tell you what you need to know, at least you’ve got a tool where you can find out for yourself. You can search by your doctor’s name or by the name of the practice you visit.