Trust and Transparency: Patient Perceptions of Physicians' Financial Relationships with Pharmaceutical Companies

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 42 (4):475-491 (2014)
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Financial ties between physicians and pharmaceutical companies are pervasive and controversial. However, little is known about how patients perceive such ties. This paper describes an experiment examining how a national sample of U.S. adults perceived a variety of financial relationships between physicians and drug companies. Each respondent read a single scenario about a hypothetical physician and his financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry; scenarios varied in terms of payment type of and amount. Respondents then evaluated the physician on several dimensions . Findings revealed that perceptions of the physician were more strongly influenced by payment type than by payment amount. Specifically, respondents were quite critical of doctors who owned drug company stock or received industry payments for meals and lodging, but were more forgiving of physicians who received free drug samples or consulting fees . Interestingly, physicians who received no payments, while seen as honest, were also viewed by some respondents as inexperienced or uninformed about new treatments. Implications for public policy and future research are discussed



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