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Pharma company gifts to docs linked to prescribing habits: Study

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Ben Comer Senior Manager, Health Research Institute, PwC US November 18, 2019


General practitioners in France who received more than $1,100 in gifts from pharmaceutical companies in 2016 prescribed fewer generics and more branded drugs on average than physicians who did not receive industry gifts, according to a study published on Nov. 6 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Study authors used the Transparency in Healthcare database, which was created after passage of the French Sunshine Act in 2011. The database is maintained by the French ministry of health.

These doctors were less likely to prescribe lower-cost generic antibiotics, antihypertensives and statins, according to study data. That group also received higher reimbursement amounts for drugs per patient and prescribed more antibiotics, benzodiazepines and vasodilators than physicians who did not receive gifts. They also were heavier prescribers than peers who received gifts worth less than $1,100 over the year. In general, the more valuable the gifts, the more the physicians prescribed.

The study examined industry gift-giving among a population of 41,257 general practitioners working exclusively in France’s private sector. Among the physicians studied, 66.7 percent had received a gift worth at least $11 in 2016, according to the study.

HRI impact analysis

France’s Sunshine Act followed passage of the US Affordable Care Act in 2010, which included the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (section 6002), a provision aimed at making pharmaceutical gifts to physicians transparent to the public.

The Sunshine Act’s Open Payments database is maintained by CMS and can be used by the public to look up individual physicians and the dollar amount of gifts they received each year, beginning in 2013. The database also includes the names of pharmaceutical companies associated with each gift amount.

In the US, pharmaceutical companies gave $9.35 billion in gifts to physicians in 2018, up from $8.97 billion in 2017, according to the Open Payments database. While the number of total payments went down during that time, the value of the gifts given to doctors went up, according to the Open Payments data.

Organizations looking for ways to make commercial operations more efficient and less costly should consider using an advanced analytics model to improve physician targeting efforts and promotional channel selection. Gifts and other transfer of value, such as participation by doctors in pharma-sponsored speakers bureaus, may be reduced by better physician selection and more concise promotional outreach. 

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Trine K. Tsouderos

Business Insights, Sectors Leader and Health Research Institute Leader, PwC US

Tel: +1 (312) 241 3824

Ben Comer

Senior Manager, Health Research Institute, PwC US

Crystal Yednak

Senior Manager, Health Research Institute, PwC US

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