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First in Nation: MA Residents Can Follow Money from Big Pharma to Doctors

November 24, 2010

BOSTON - If you have ever wondered about the money that big pharmaceutical companies are doling out to doctors, wonder no more. Massachusetts residents can now look at a new on-line database to see how much money drug companies are paying and which doctors are on the receiving end.

According to Georgia Maharas, manager of the Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition, the pharmaceutical industry spends more than $6 billion a year nationwide to market straight to physicians. That's $9,000 for each doctor.

The money can come in the form of gifts, speaking fees or classes, Maharas explains. She adds that studies have shown its influence can be strong.

"If a prescriber receives a gift from a drug company or a device company, they're more likely to prescribe that drug or device going forward, which also drives up the cost of drugs and devices for all us."

Maharas says the new on-line database enables everyone to see the amount given to each doctor as well as the doctor's name, which is helpful to consumers and policy-makers alike.

"For one thing, you can see if your own doctor has received any gifts, and you can ask them why they're receiving money from the industry. It helps policy-makers ensure there are no conflicts of interest between industry and prescribers."

The database is the first of its kind in the U.S. It is the result of a 2009 state law banning certain gifts, like "wining and dining," made to physicians by pharmaceutical and device companies. More disclosure and transparency are also required.

The database is at www.mass.gov.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA