Some oncologists may be more likely to prescribe certain cancer medicines when they receive payments from the companies that make these drugs, a U.S. study suggests.
Researchers examined data on payments drug companies made to doctors in 2013 for research funding as well general payments such as gifts, fees for speaking or consulting work, meals or travel. Then, researchers looked at how often doctors prescribed different drugs for two types of cancers with multiple treatment options: kidney cancer and a rare blood cell cancer known as chronic myeloid leukemia.
Compared to physicians who didn’t receive any payments from the manufacturers of those drugs, those who did were 84 percent more likely to prescribe a kidney medication from those companies, the study found.
Payments from manufacturers were also associated with 31 percent greater likelihood that doctors would choose one of their drugs for chronic myeloid leukemia.
“While others have studied industry payments in relation (to) prescribing of other kinds of drugs, like blood pressure and cholesterol medications, ours is the first study examining oncology drugs,” said senior study author Stacie Dusetzina, a researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Because oncology is a high-risk disease area and the drugs are very expensive, decisions about prescribing should ideally be determined by a doctor-patient discussion that is free from outside influences,” Dusetzina said by email.
While it’s possible physicians might not deliberately change treatment decisions based on drugmaker payments, the potential is still troubling, said IHPI member Dr. Reshma Jagsi, director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“Each drug has a unique risks and benefit profile, even when considering two drugs from the same class, and often costs to the patient and society vary as well,” Jagsi, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.