HEALTH -- October 20, 2010 at 6:32 PM ET
'Dollars for Docs' Tracks Pharmaceutical Companies' Spending
A new database compiled by the nonprofit investigative journalism group ProPublica allows patients, for the first time, to see whether their doctors are on a pharmaceutical company's payroll -- and if so, how much they're being paid.
You can use the widget below to search the database.
The database is part of "Dollars for Docs," a series ProPublica produced with NPR, the Boston Globe, Consumer Reports, the Chicago Tribune and PBS Nightly Business Report on how drug company payments influence the drugs that doctors prescribe. Some of the 17,000 doctors in the database had been paid as much as $100,000 in the past 18 months.
ProPublica senior reporter Charles Ornstein told NPR that patients can use the information to make more informed choices about their medications:
If you see your doctor is receiving money from a company that makes your drug, it's good to ask if there are alternatives that are less expensive, if there are alternatives that have fewer side effects, and to just exercise a degree of caution -- not necessarily to distrust your doctor at all, but to ask questions to make sure that this is the drug that's best for you.
Ornstein and his colleague Tracy Weber reported several stories for the "Dollars for Docs" series -- including one on a series of lawsuits brought by former drug company employees that accuse the companies of tactics such as pushing doctors to recommend off-label uses for the drugs. In another story, the reporters found that hundreds of doctors on drug companies' payrolls had records of professional misconduct or other blemishes.