Physicians, Drug Companies Too Cozy for Comfort: Study

Healthcare - special report - Doctor, money, stethoscope, 100 dollar bills, U.S. flags, medical bills. CBS/iStockphoto

Is your physician taking gifts from drug companies? (CBS/iStockphoto)

(CBS) In other industries you might call it a bribe, but when drug companies provide travel expenses, consulting fees and other goodies to doctors, it's just called doing business.

At least that's the conclusion of a new study by the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital, which took the moral pulse of 1,900 physicians across the country.

The good news? The number of docs on the dole has fallen from an astounding 94 percent in 2004. The bad news? Three quarters of America's physicians still take some kind of hand outs from companies who want them to prescribe their medicine to their patients, according the study.

And it seems to work.

Doctors with "industry relationships" were more likely to self-report prescribing big ticket drugs, according to the paper. And regions with higher health care costs tended to have more cozy relationships.

Study author Dr. Eric G. Campbell of the Harvard Medical School put it this way: "Our finding of a significant association between physician-industry relationships and the use of more expensive drugs suggests that future investigations of factors underlying high-cost medicine should explore the possible driving role of these relationships."

His group is calling for more transparency.

In doctors' defense, the most commonly accepted items were free drug samples and food and drinks, hopefully not the kind of perks that sway medical decisions.

The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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