Health & medicine

Medical device payments to physicians: a reality check

A study published in the journal Health Affairs has found that the US medical device industry is outspending even big pharma when it comes to payments to physicians. But is this indicative of bias, or just of more physician-industry interaction? Abi Millar finds out more about the payments flowing to physicians from medical device firms.

When it comes to interactions between medtech companies and physicians, it’s no secret that there may be cash involved. Many doctors receive consulting fees, or other in-kind compensation like meals and lodging, from the industry representatives who are working alongside them. The surprising part is that, while this issue is widely known, it hasn’t been widely explored.

In fact, there has been very little research into device companies’ payments to physicians, even though a similar phenomenon – pharma companies’ payments to physicians – has long come under scrutiny. We don’t know exactly how these financial relationships affect which products are chosen, still less how they impact patient care.

A new study, published in the journal Health Affairs in May, sheds new light on the subject, with an eye-opening analysis of how much is actually spent. The paper, by researchers in Pennsylvania and New York, found that US medical device firms spent $3.62bn between 2014 and 2017 on physician payments, compared to $3.28bn from pharma firms.

Although the difference sounds small, the real story here is that medtech firms spent seven times more as a proportion of total revenue. Around 1.7% of total industry revenue went towards physician payments, compared to 0.24% of pharma revenue.

Read the rest of this article in the July 2021 edition of Medical Technology

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