Ninety-four percent of physicians have some type of relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, and most of these relationships involve receiving food in the workplace (83 percent) or drug samples (78 percent), according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. More than one third of the respondents (35 percent) receive reimbursement for costs associated with professional meetings or continuing medical education, and more than one quarter (28 percent) receive payments for consulting, lecturing, or enrolling patients in clinical trials.
Of the six specialists surveyed (anesthesiologists, cardiologists, family practitioners, general surgeons, internists, and pediatricians), cardiologists are more than twice as likely as family practitioners to receive payments. But family physicians meet more frequently with industry representatives than do other specialists.
Physicians in solo, duo, or larger practices are significantly more likely to have relationships with industry than are physicians in hospitals or clinics that may have policies that restrict physician–industry relationships. In addition, small practices may have more freedom in their prescribing choices than physicians in hospitals and clinics, which usually follow a formulary.
Finally, hospitals and clinics may offer medical information through grand rounds or CME events, making physicians feel less dependent on industry representatives as a source of medical information.
No such thing as a free lunch?
In a national survey, 3,167 physicians in six specialties were asked "Which of the following have you received in the last year from drug, device, or other medically-related companies?"
Chart by Julie Ridge