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Open Access Correspondence

Characteristics of physicians receiving large payments from pharmaceutical companies and the accuracy of their disclosures in publications: an observational study

Susan L Norris1*, Haley K Holmer1, Lauren A Ogden1, Brittany U Burda2 and Rongwei Fu34

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Mail Code BICC, Portland, OR, 97239, USA

2 Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland, OR, USA

3 Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA

4 Department of Emergency Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA

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BMC Medical Ethics 2012, 13:24  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-13-24

Published: 26 September 2012

Abstract

Background

Financial relationships between physicians and industry are extensive and public reporting of industry payments to physicians is now occurring. Our objectives were to describe physician recipients of large total payments from these seven companies, and to examine discrepancies between these payments and conflict of interest (COI) disclosures in authors’ concurrent publications.

Methods

The investigative journalism organization, ProPublica, compiled the Dollars for Docs database of payments to individuals from publically available data from seven US pharmaceutical companies during the period 2009 to 2010. We examined the cohort of 373 physicians in this database who each received USD $100,000 or more in the reporting period 2009 to 2010.

Results

These physicians received a total of $52,600,624 during this period (mean payment per physician $141,020). The predominant specialties were internal medicine and psychiatry. 147 of these physicians authored a total of 134 publications in the first quarter of 2011 and 77% (103) of these publications provided a COI disclosure. 69% of the 103 publications did not contain disclosures of the payment listed in the Dollars for Docs database.

Conclusions

With increased public reporting of industry payments to physicians, it is apparent that large sums are being paid for services such as consulting and peer education. In over two-thirds of publications where COI disclosures were provided, the disclosures by physician authors did not include industry payments that were documented in the Dollars for Docs database.

Keywords:
Conflict of interest; Publication; Industry relationships; Physicians; Bias; Disclosure; Accuracy