Drug companies reveal info on gifts to doctors

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Several big-name drug companies in Canada have begun listing how much money they pay out to doctors, hospitals and health care groups, amid concerns that patients have been kept in the dark about the financial ties between their physicians and the pharmaceutical industry.

Ten large drug companies are releasing information on their websites, listing the millions of dollars of payments made to health-care professionals and organizations, such as hospitals and doctor groups. They have also listed payments made to doctors to cover their travel expenses to international meetings.

The participating companies include:

White prescription pills
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Amgen
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Gilead
  • Eli Lilly
  • Merck
  • Novartis
  • Purdue
  • Roche
  • AbbVie Corp.

GSK Canada (GlaxoSmithKline), which spearheaded the voluntary disclosure plan, revealed it paid a little more than $2 million to health care providers and organizations in 2016

Merck Canada revealed it paid more than $7 million for health care professional services, and another $2 million to patient groups and health organizations. Roche Canada offered more than $8 million in payments to doctors and health organization groups.

In all, the 10 companies offered more than $48 million in payments in 2016, though not all companies included figures for the entire year.

The 10 drug companies announced in late March, through the industry group Innovative Medicines Canada, that they would begin releasing the numbers, saying they were committed to “enhancing trust by disclosing the payment voluntarily.”

But many prominent pharmaceutical company observers say the move is little more than a public relations gesture and doesn’t go far enough to inform Canadians about the influence drug companies have on doctors.

For example, the companies are only listing their overall payments to health care professionals — not how much they paid to individual doctors, as is now required in the United States.

The Physician Payments Sunshine Act in the U.S. compels companies to divulge all payments to doctors of $10 or more. Britain, France and Denmark have similar “sunshine” legislation. In the U.S. patients can even access an interactive database created by ProPublica, called “Dollars for Docs,” that lists which doctors and hospitals receive the most payments from drug companies.

Several Canadian physicians want to see that kind of transparency in this country. They’ve formed a group, called “Open Pharma,” that calls on governments to compel drug companies to disclose all payments made to individual doctors.

Dr. Joel Lexchin is a member of Open Pharma and recently wrote a book called “Doctors in Denial: Why Big Pharma and the Canadian medical profession are too close for comfort”.

He calls the disclosure initiative a “very minor baby step” that offers Canadian patients an incomplete picture of the payments issue.

He would rather see listing of all payments to specific doctors or organizations but suspects drug companies are reticent to reveal how much they spend on individual doctors

Lexchin says his main concern is the research showing that doctors are influenced – consciously or not – when they receive gifts or payments from drug companies.

“What we know from research done in the U.S. is that even small amounts of money or gifts are associated with changes in prescribing behaviour,” he told CTV News.

He says doctors often feel obliged to repay drug companies for gifts and that repayment sometimes takes the form of prescribing products they might not have otherwise thought of before their interactions with the drug companies.

“Money creates conflicts of interest,” he said.

Lexchin has other reservations. He notes that the 10 drug companies taking part in the voluntary disclosure represent less than half the membership of the industry group.

He also worries that, because the initiative is voluntary, “companies that disclose payments this year may not do so again next year.”


Valentine’s Day gifts for your fitness fanatic partner

Valentine Day gift ideas for a fitness freak partner

1/8Valentine Day gift ideas for a fitness freak partner

Valentine’s day doesn’t have to be all about chocolates, flowers and jewellery. Here are ways you can please your partner who is into fitness and wellness…

​Activity tracker (FitBit, Jawbone, Samsung etc)

2/8​Activity tracker (FitBit, Jawbone, Samsung etc)

If your partner is a fitness freak, nothing can be a better gift than an activity tracker. Activity tracker will help your partner to keep a track of his fitness activities throughout the day and even night.

​Gym bag, skipping rope, workout bottles

3/8​Gym bag, skipping rope, workout bottles

Be it a new yoga pant, flashy new gym bag or an interesting workout bottle, new things make you feel motivated and enthusiastic about your workout. You can gift these individually or make a small gym bag hamper!

​A green tea mug with an inspiration quote

4/8​A green tea mug with an inspiration quote

All fitness freaks incorporate this habit of having green tea and black coffee in their regular routine. So how about if you give your partner a new mug so that they have a new reason to have it.

​BMI machines

5/8​BMI machines

While losing weight, one is advised to weigh themselves everyday in the morning. And along with your weight, your BMI also matters. So it’s best to gift your partner a BMI machine of his/her own.

​Gift Sugarbox, fitness edition

6/8​Gift Sugarbox, fitness edition

This fitness edition is curated by fitness expert Namrata Purohit, who feels fitness today is more than just a person’s external image – it’s about being fit internally. For me fitness has always been about having fun and Sugarbox seemed like a great medium for me to convey this message to the audience.

​A brand new yoga mat

7/8​A brand new yoga mat

After gymming, yoga has become the new fitness trend. And if your partner is a yoga freak, gifting a yoga mat would surely make him/her happy. You can go for customized yoga mats as well!

​Assortment of soothing teas

8/8​Assortment of soothing teas

A combination of healthy teas will help your partner to take a break from their boring routine of having the same tea every day. After all variations and changes are loved by everyone.

(Picture Courtesy: Shutterstock/Thinkstock/Pixabay)