Money in Medicine: The top 20 Oregon doctors receiving drug and device payments

The medical profession, unfairly or not, has been tainted in recent years by reports of a cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical and device industries.

Drug makers agreed to pay over $13 billion to resolve U.S. Department of Justice allegations of fraudulent marketing practices, with some of the biggest names in the industry fined for paying kickbacks to doctors and handing out free meds to encourage use of their products, according to ProPublica.

VIEW SLIDESHOW: The top 20 Oregon doctors receiving drug and device payments

But all that was before the Sunshine Act went into effect in 2013. Since then, payments to doctors from industry have been collected in a publicly available database. The transparency has helped curb abuses, according to some reports.

You can now look up your individual doctors and see if they are receiving payments from Merck, Pfizer or any other pharmaceutical company and, if so, how much and what it was for.

The Portland Business Journal is taking a deep dive into the Oregon data for 2015 over the next few days. Today, you can meet the Top 20 doctor recipients in Oregon by clicking on the image above. We spoke to some of the doctors on the list for an in-depth story running in this week's print edition.

All told, 100 Oregon doctors brought in $9 million, most of it in consulting fees, speaking engagements, royalties and licenses for products they invented and free travel, lodging, food and beverages.

Critics contend such payments can influence prescribing patterns by steering doctors toward more expensive brand-name drugs, a charge borne out by several studies as well as a ProPublica analysis.

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But doctors we interviewed said they are simply being compensated for their time and expertise, or in several cases, the technology they devised to advance patient care. They argue that safeguards are in place to prevent undue influence from industry, such as a prohibition on receiving royalties from your own practice or even region.

Furthermore, they say, they can use their knowledge to improve upon therapies in development and after FDA approval, by sharing what they know with other doctors.

“This is very FDA regulated,” said Dr. Bryan Mehlhaff, a Springfield urologist who makes presentations about cutting-edge prostate cancer drugs. “A lot of my patients know I’m a speaker and that I participate on advisory boards and ask if I’ve heard anything new. A lot of them like that I’m on top of new developments and on the cutting edge of what might be possible for them.”

Elizabeth covers health care for the Portland Business Journal. Sign up for her free daily email to keep tabs on the rapidly changing industry. See all of the Portland Business Journal's Money in Medicine coverage here.


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