I-Team: Pharmaceutical payments to physicians

The ethical balance for Doctors receiving pharmaceutical payments

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Pharmaceutical companies develop and market drugs to be used as medication. The 22News I-Team discovered some local doctors are receiving big payouts from them.

In the past five years, pharmaceutical companies have paid out more than $120 million to doctors in Massachusetts. The I-Team dug deeper to find out why. Dr. Jonathan Bayuk has received more than $220,000 from pharmaceutical companies since 2009.

“If you’re talking about asthma you’re talking about asthma, the disease of asthma, you’re not promoting a drug, you’re not a salesman, you’re presenting information that is out there, well vetted good data, granted it is being sponsored from a company so you always have to present that in a fair and balanced way,” said Dr. Bayuk, an Allergist and Clinical Immunologist.

Dr. Bayuk told the I-Team all of the money he receives he donates to charity. We went through thousands of public disclosures from more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies, and discovered eight western Massachusetts physicians have received more than $100,000 in the past five years from pharmaceutical companies. Some for research others for speaking or consulting.

“What’s important for patients to know this transparency can help show why there’s value in physician and industry interactions, the concern however right now if the data is published without any context or guidance to give patients the information they need, what the data represents than that’s lost for transparency to be beneficial to patients,” said John Murphy, Assistant General Counsel for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

The 22News I-Team went to the Massachusetts medical Society in Waltham, their President told 22News if a doctor receives payments from pharmaceutical companies first and foremost it needs to benefit their patients.

“Much of the research that we do, would not happen without pharmaceutical companies providing that money for research,” said Dr. Richard Pieters, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

(What if any ethical balance is there for Doctors who accept large sums of money from pharmaceutical companies?) “Our first obligation is always to the patients, everything a physician accepts should benefit patients somehow,” said Dr. Pieters.

Dr. Bayuk recommends that if a patient has questions about any doctor receiving payments to ask them about it. He told 22News when it comes to his paid speaking engagements, it’s not about the money.

“The end goal for me is to provide information about the diseases that are out there there’s a lot of lack of information,” said Dr. Bayuk.

To see if your doctor has received payments from pharmaceutical companies and what they were for, check out the chart below:

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