It’s Not Happening Here

By Richard Davis

An October 18 article on the Medscape web site titled, “Over 700 Doctors Paid More Than $1 Million by Drug, Medical Device Companies”, got me to wondering about how our local doctors compare to some of their greedy counterparts in other areas of the country.

The article noted that, “Back in 2013, ProPublica detailed what seemed a stunning development in the pharmaceutical industry’s drive to win the prescription pads of the nation’s doctors: In just four years, one doctor had earned $1 million giving promotional talks and consulting for drug companies; 21 others had made more than $500,000. Six years later — despite often damning scrutiny from prosecutors and academics — such high earnings have become commonplace.”

They go on to point out that, “More than 2,500 physicians have received at least half a million dollars apiece from drug makers and medical device companies in the past five years alone, a new ProPublica analysis of payment data shows. And that doesn’t include money for research or royalties from inventions.”

Pro Publica created a free and readily accessible database called Dollars for Docs at: It includes “…more than 56 million payments made from 2014 to 2018 — the first five full years of the federal Open Payments initiative, which requires companies to publicly disclose the payments as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act”, according to Medscape.

Vermont has a law similar to the Federal law subtitled, “Disclosure of allowable expenditures and gifts by manufacturers of prescribed products.” I contacted Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and I was told by Gina Pattison, Director of Development & Marketing that BMH is in full compliance with the Vermont law and that the “medical staff did discontinue industry sponsored events at the hospital quite a few years ago”.

I accessed the Pro Publica database and entered the names of 10 local doctors who I believe represent a cross-section of our medical community. The results were comforting. Six of the ten had not received indirect compensation from any drug or medical device manufacturers for the years of the database.

The remaining four doctors received what appears to be indirect compensation for education, travel, lodging, food and beverages ranging from three dollars to $2443. The highest numbers were connected to surgeons who required training on new equipment and it seems fair that the manufacturers should foot the bill for some of the training since they are profiting from the purchase of new equipment.

This little bit of research leads me to conclude that our local medical community is keeping the pharmaceutical and device manufacturers at arm’s length as much as possible. It is my understanding most stopped taking free samples years ago and that may be considered an ethically sound move that is forcing drug manufacturers to reconsider their relationship to doctors and other prescribers.

Check out the database. Once in a while research can lead you into more positive territory than a cynic might expect.

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