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Investigation finds docs paid the dollars for referrals

Published: Monday, February 11, 2013 @ 5:00 PM
Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 @ 5:00 PM

When people across the Miami Valley go to their doctor, they expect to get the best care and treatment.  However, with three quarters of a billion dollars flowing to doctors from drug companies, we wanted to know if that is really true.

"The main moral responsibility of a physician is to his or her patient and first do no harm and second try to benefit your patient," said Peggy DesAutels, a philosophy and ethics professor at the University of Dayton.

An investigation by the journalism website ProPublica shows how much money pharmaceutical companies paid to doctors in our area.  We found several physicians whowere paid more than $100,000 over the course of two years.  The payments ranged from $109,000 to $191,000.

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"I immediately think that's it's going to be a little fishy," said DesAutels. "They do prescribe the drugs more often if they are getting paid by that drug company."

She said studies show these payments from drug companies are a conflict of interest.

We asked the Ohio State Medical Association, the group representing Buckeye State Doctors, to explain why the money is being paid out.

Executive Counsel Nancy Gillette said, "What they are doing is conveying to other physicians how to treat patients, what to expect when treating patients with drugs or devices."

Gillette said doctors get paid to speak at conferences to other doctors about medicines they use.  She said it is clear at those meetings which doctors are getting paid.

"A conflict in and of itself is not a bad thing. It's what you do with it," said Gillette.

The ProPublica list was topped by Dr. Bernadette D'Souza of Dayton.  She was paid $216,000 and gladly told us why.

"Those dollars this doc gets all are for supporting the actual conduct of clinical trials and supporting the economy of Dayton," said D'Souza.

Dr. D'Souza runs a research center in Dayton that tests new medicines.  She said, "No new drugs would be available today had patients not volunteered for studies and we not done clinical trials."

Local doctors told us that they welcome patients asking questions about the money they get from drug companies.  Also, you can check the link to the ProPublica web site and see how much your doctor might be getting from pharmaceutical companies. 

A new federal law passed as part of the Affordable Care Act that would require doctors and drug cocmpanies to disclose payments.  However, the government has not yet

set rules for the law which is supposed to take effect next month.