Massachusetts Publishes Database Detailing Pharma Payments to Health Providers
Patients and consumers in Massachusetts now have the ability to know whether their doctors are receiving incentives to prescribe them certain drugs. Recently, and as a result of a 2008 state law regulating industry conduct, Massachusetts became the first state to post an online database of payments from drug and medical device companies to its state’s health care providers. Since it is fully searchable by provider name, company name or payment category, this database is fairly user-friendly and comprehensive. It is a great tool for proactive consumers who wish to protect their rights and stay informed. As a quick overview, over a six-month period, the drug and device companies reported made $35.7 million in payments, with almost half that sum going directly to physicians.
Although Massachusetts has made important strides in this realm, consumers outside the state also have resources to turn to. Earlier this month, Andrew Brown of our firm commented on Propublica’s Dollars for Docs database, which compiles nationwide data about payments pharmaceutical companies have made to doctors for promoting their drugs. Propublica has published a series of articles discussing its database, and importantly has an instructional guide for patients explaining the best way in which Dollars for Docs can be used.
Massachusetts’ online database represents an important and empowering trend that consumers should be aware of. It is important to note that these payments are not illegal, but may be a cause for concern. Consumers are urged to use this data wisely to foster discussion with their health care providers when being prescribed new medications.