Several large pharmaceutical companies have paid US physicians nearly $150m this year, according to analysis by the Financial Times.
Industry data into the controversial marketing and support practices found that $148m has been given to 165,000 doctors so far, including $48m from Eli Lilly and $42m from Pfizer.
A spokesperson for Lilly said the “collaboration with healthcare providers is essential” to improve outcomes for patients and to provide innovative medicines.
In the UK, the ABPI recently changed its Code of Practice meaning companies now have to declare payments to healthcare professionals for their services from 2013 in an attempt to increase transparency. Government agencies in the US are currently finalising similar guidelines as part of the healthcare reforms.
The analysis by the Financial Times, in conjunction with PharmaShine, is designed to allow health authorities, medical institutions and patients better scrutinise and understand the links between doctors and pharma.
But the way current disclosures are made and presented varies and makes comparisons and analysis difficult for both authorities and patients alike.
Allan Coukell, Head of the Pew Prescription Project – a US drug safety watchdog – says that healthcare professionals and the industry needs to work together for research purposes, “but the marketing model is problematic”.
“The first step is transparency and we are not even there yet,” he added.
Research found that collectively the industry paid $437m to 262,000 doctors in 2010. Among the physicians who received the highest level of support was Dr Zale Bernstein, an Associate Professor from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. Dr Bernstein received $234,000 in 2010 from Cephalon, Eli Lilly and Pfizer and has already received more than $57,000 already this year.
Although the majority of doctors received smaller sums, studies have suggested even modest support by pharma can affect prescribing practices.