You may have seen various items in your doctor's office with brand names of drugs on them. You may have even sat through a long wait in the waiting room while drug company reps were ushered in quickly. And you may have even gone to patient education meetings, sponsored by drug companies, where doctors were speaking and made statements that their appearance was compensated.
If any of this has made you wonder if your doctor is making money from drug companies you no longer have to wonder. Starting this week, that information is online.
As part of the Affordable Care Act the government has started releasing details of payments from pharmaceutical and medical device makers to doctors and teaching hospitals for consulting, promotional speaking, meals, travel, research, and other activities.
A user friendly site, where you can search by your doctor's name, is the Dollars for Docs site run by ProPublica, a non profit organization of investigative journalists. They have been tracking pharmaceutical company payments to doctors for the past four years.
Some believe these payments are helpful because patients benefit when drug companies are able to host programs such as those which educate physicians or patients about a specific medical condition or procedure. Others feel there's a conflict of interest when a physician has accepted payments from a drug or device-making company whose products he or she then prescribes or implants. The jury will be out for a while as the public is only beginning to get a look at the actual numbers.