More Tenn. Physicians Take from Industry ; Database Shows Compensation, Meals and Gifts

By Mike Reicher, Holly Fletcher; Kevin McKenzie | News Sentinel, June 30, 2016 | Go to article overview

More Tenn. Physicians Take from Industry ; Database Shows Compensation, Meals and Gifts


Mike Reicher, Holly Fletcher; Kevin McKenzie, News Sentinel


A small for-profit hospital on the outskirts of Memphis has the highest rate of doctors who took payments from the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, out of more than 2,000 hospitals across the nation.

Federal disclosures show 59 out of 62 doctors at Saint Francis Hospital in Bartlett, Tenn. -- or 95 percent -- received payments for speaking engagements, meals, gifts, travel, consulting or other interactions with the industry in 2014, the most recent year for which information was available.

While there's nothing illegal about taking such compensation, doctors with financial ties to pharmaceutical and device companies are more likely to prescribe expensive brand-name medications than those without relationships, studies have found. Even doctors who received just one meal from an industry representative prescribed a higher proportion of brand names, according to a study published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine.

"I think there has absolutely been this idea or fear from the consumer perspective that part of the reason physicians prescribe certain drugs is because of payments made by pharmaceutical manufacturers," said Deborah Farringer, assistant professor of law at Belmont University College of Law in Nashville.

Limiting that influence was one

See hospitals, 15A

goal of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's revised conflict of interest policies, which in 2014 yielded the lowest share of doctors taking industry payments statewide.

Still, interaction between the industry and clinicians remains necessary for innovation as well as understanding the effects of treatments, experts said. Hospital administrators should develop policies that improve care while keeping physicians unbiased in their prescribing habits, Farringer said.

Two doctors receiving payments at the 196-bed Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett said paid meals, travel and other industry compensation do not influence medical decisions.

Dr. Kashif Latif, an endocrinologist, had 235 payments in 2014 that totaled $14,132, the second-highest among doctors who see patients at the hospital. Latif said drug company representatives provide food for his staff when they visit him during lunch hours, the only time he can squeeze in meetings. The lunches "don't sway anything that we do," he said.

Under the Sunshine Act, which mandates financial disclosures as part of the Affordable Care Act, pharmaceutical and medical device companies report their payments to physicians. Doctors then have a chance to dispute the records. The data is available on public websites such as Dollars for Docs, a project by the nonprofit investigative news organization ProPublica.

Another doctor at Saint Francis, Dr. John S. Gardner, a cardiologist, questioned the accuracy of the data reported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. He planned to dispute a roughly $10,000 grant listed under his name from Boston Scientific Corp.

Saint Francis administrators had no comment, other than a statement expressing support of the Sunshine Act. With the financial disclosure, they said, patients "can discuss that information directly with their physician."

less influence?

Some hospitals have restricted industry interactions -- from receiving free trips and frequent flier miles to using company tchotchkes such as branded pens and notepads. Requirements are more stringent for academic medical institutions and other hospitals that take federal grant money from agencies including the National Institutes of Health. …

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