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Researchers reviewed data from 20 surveys conducted primarily with patients and found that many patients believe ties between doctors and drug companies decrease the quality of the care they receive and increase its costs. “Financial ties between clinicians, researchers, and private companies continue to be a contentious issue,” says Cary Gross, the study’s lead author. “We found that patients and research subjects believe financial ties affect professional behavior.” (Credit: iStockphoto)

YALE (US)—Most patients think doctors should be up front about financial ties to drug companies. Many view such relationships as unacceptable or inappropriate, especially when the gift or relationship is of a personal nature.

Cary Gross, associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, and colleagues reviewed data from 20 surveys conducted primarily with patients. The a majority of the patients thought free dinners were unacceptable, and many patients believe these ties decrease the quality of the care they receive and increase its costs. Their findings are published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

“Financial ties between clinicians, researchers, and private companies continue to be a contentious issue among politicians, the media, and physician groups,” says Gross, the study’s lead author. “We found that patients and research subjects believe financial ties affect professional behavior.”

As calls for more disclosure, including pending national legislation that would require public reporting of physician ties to companies, Gross and his team hope their work can inform this movement in a way that benefits patients.

“We hope our study will improve the design of these public reporting systems, perhaps by highlighting the kind of information patients want disclosed and shedding light on how they will think about that information,” says first author and Yale medical student Adam Licurse.

The study also provides insight on what is not well understood in the literature. “We found few studies that asked patients how financial ties affect patients’ decisions about choosing a doctor,” says Licurse. “While many studies asked patients if they would still participate in research after learning about ties to drug companies, little is known about whether patients would be any less likely to choose a doctor if they knew about financial ties.”

Licurse says that teasing out these behavioral outcomes and answering more of the questions surrounding patient decision-making will be the next step.

Researchers from Harvard University contributed to the study.

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