Is your doctor receiving money from drug makers?

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - When your doctor prescribes you medication, you'd like to think their decision is based on your health and which drugs or devices will improve your health.

A recent study of physicians who have received money or gifts from drug makers shows those same physicians are more likely to prescribe name-brand drugs that may cost you more money. 

Now there is an easy way to find out which drug companies are showering your doctor with cash, gifts and fancy dinners. ProPublica - an independent, nonprofit newsgroup - has compiled all of the payments given to every doctor from drug makers and medical device companies in the U.S. They're calling the project Dollars for Doctors.

Pharmaceutical companies are required by law to release details of their payments to doctors and hospitals, but ProPublica has made the information easy for anyone to see.

You just type in the name of any doctor and you can instantly see every payment made to them, when and what it was for.

Texas ranks third in states whose doctors and hospitals have received the most money. Physicians and teaching hospitals in Texas received $626 million from 2013 to 2016. Some doctors received millions of dollars; some much less.

The drugs for which companies spent the most on payments to physicians include familiar ones like Xarelto and Humira.

If you find your doctor listed, ProPublica says you can ask them some questions to help you decide if they are making medical decisions in your best interest.

Questions like: Have you prescribed me any drugs that are manufactured by companies you've taken payments from? Are there less expensive generic alternatives to the drugs you have prescribed?

Some doctors receive money for consulting services or public speaking at conferences hosted by drug makers. You'll see others who just received a free lunch or dinner when the drug company sent a salesperson to the doctor's office to pitch the drug. 

It's information you should see. Ask about it if it concerns you. 

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