So, believe it or not, pharmaceutical companies can pay doctors in hopes of persuading doctors to prescribe specific drugs.  This seems like a tiny conflict of interest, but doctors are only involved in keeping us healthy, so it’s not really a big deal.  We dive further into how pharmaceutical sales has impacted the healthcare industry in our upcoming series titled “Our Healthcare System Has Been Hijacked,” but today, we want to cover New Jersey’s plan to curb these payments.

Governor Chris Christie stated that pharmaceutical and medical device companies shell out tens of millions of dollars to New Jersey doctors each year, and he is eyeing legislation to prevent these kinds of payments.  In justifying the new rules, Governor Christie had the following comment:

“While the vast majority of doctors care for their patients honorably and professionally, their education about many of the drugs they are prescribing comes too often from pharmaceutical sales people, who may not always provide an objective analysis of the human and social impacts the drugs may have,” 

If that is true, that is certainly an alarming fact.  It would essentially imply that the information used to prescribe drugs would be coming from sales representatives instead of scientific research and analysis.  And based on the findings of a NJ Advance Media investigation, it looks like a strong possibility that sales representatives may be playing a larger role than they should.  According to the investigation, the state’s top prescribers of the drug fetanyl, which is an opiod pain medication, had received payments from the manufacturers, which totaled $1.67 million for all New Jersey doctors from the period of 2013 to 2015.

To make matters worse, 2013 to 2015 also saw a 1000 increase in deaths from overdoses of fetanyl, which is extremely saddening to say the least, and estimates show that the number of overdoses potentially doubled again in 2016.

Christie’s proposed rule would still allow for doctors to receive compensation for services provided to the pharmaceutical companies, but it would greatly restrict “gift” like payments.  The bill is set to be discussed at a state hearing on October 19.

While the legislation is still a distance from being passed into law, it is certainly a major step in the right direction just to open the conversation about the very intertwined world of pharmaceutical companies paying doctors and the quite obvious conflict of interest it creates.  Doctors shouldn’t be put in a position where they are making choices about the health of their patients based on money or information from pharmaceutical companies. Yet, this kind of conflict of interest can be seen everywhere in the healthcare industry.

If you are interested to see if your doctor has taken money from pharmaceutical companies, check out this search tool from ProPublica.

Don’t forget to check back for our upcoming series on the healthcare industry. Part one covers the negative impacts of pharmaceutical companies on the industry.


Title Image: “Pills” by Jamie is licensed under CC BY 2.0