Earlier this week, we began a discussion about doctors who receive payments (cash and otherwise) from pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers. These for-profit companies are not buying lunch for physicians and paying them to speak on behalf of their products simply because they want to reward doctors for the important work they do. Instead, these companies understand that such tactics work. It takes money to make money, and pharmaceutical companies definitely make money.
ProPublica reports that about 606,000 physicians received payments from pharmaceutical and medical device companies last year (as did dentists, optometrists, chiropractors and other medical professionals). Obviously, a physician who has frequent contact with pharmaceutical reps and receives a lot of payments is less likely to be trustworthy than the doctor who has maybe accepted a free lunch once or twice. But where do we draw the line between objective/ethical and biased/unethical? It is precisely this question that prompts some physicians to avoid drug company payments and perks altogether.