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? Here's how to find out.

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.


Nimue Pendragon

No, it doesn't work that way in Australia.

Nimue Pendragon

No, it doesn't work that way in Australia.

Angela B.
Angela B4 years ago

I live in Canada but I was just talking about this subject with some friends last week. It seems like an awfully shady practice but most things revolving around the big pharmaceutical companies feel quasi-ethical at best.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

I find it disgusting when you are sitting in the waiting room forever, they come in and go right on back!

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

I think part of the reason that the money to doctors is going down is the increase in drug commercials on TV. People get to watch the commercials and see if any of the listed ailments fit their style and go hit up the doctor for drugs. I think they are a hypochondriacs dream. If people were smart they would really listen to all the horrid side affects that come with all those drugs; they are worse than the ailments themselves. I am not surprised doctors are on their payroll though. One of my doc's has a sign on his door that drug salesmen need to use a different door!

Lisa Nevares
Lisa Nevares4 years ago

Unfortunately, any involvement with the medical field - pharmaceuticals and insurance (like within the oil industry) - we are sure to find capitalistic political constituent involvement on both sides of the democratic representation. Just another sad example of how our current system 'for the people by the people' has become blatantly a system 'for the few persons at expense to the many people'.

Ronel Van Vuuren
Ronel v4 years ago

I do not think we will ever know, far too much money involved

Slava R.
Slava R4 years ago


Janis K.
Janis K4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Steve McCrea
Steve McCrea4 years ago


It's time we faced the corruption in the drug industry. We could start by banning direct to consumer advertising, and by preventing drug companies from controlling what is researched and what is published by providing sufficient alternative resources for funding. It's a gigantic problem and will take a concerted effort of all to get it under control.

---- Steve