WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - They're wined and dined by some of the top pharmaceutical companies in the country. So how do you know if your doctor's being influenced by that money when it comes to prescribing you medication?
There's a new online database that was released by the nonprofit group ProPublica. It allows you to search by name to find out how much money your doctor has received from prescription drug companies.
SEARCH THE DATABASE TO THE RIGHT or click here.
Just because a doctor of facility is on the list doesn't mean they've done anything wrong. But ethics experts say the contributions raise questions.
It's no secret pharmaceutical companies pay big bucks to get their pills in your hands but now we know just how much they're paying doctors.
NewsChannel 5 crunched the numbers in the database. Over a three year time period, doctors and medical facilities in our area have received more than 12 million dollars. That's just from the 15 companies that reported the numbers.
They're paying doctors and medical facilities for everything from research to travel to speaking about the newest drugs.
"There is a legitimate fear," said Dr Craig Hanson, a professor and medical ethics expert at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
"We need to be aware that doctors are subject to influence just like anyone else," said Dr. Hanson.
What the companies are doing is legal. A lot of that money's spent locally on clinical research to get the best drugs to people who need them. But it also raises questions.
Pharmaceutical companies do indeed need to get information out," said Dr. Hanson. "But there is a serious problem when it comes to coercing in any way or having a conflicting interest in prescribing medication," said Dr. Hanson.
It's why some patients have been skeptical.
"I just feel like doctors now are paying less attention to what the patients need and they're paying more attention to what kind of kickbacks they're getting for prescribing certain meds," said a Lake Worth resident.
"It's a merky situation and you have to be an intelligent person, you have to ask questions," said Dr. Hanson.
He suggests being direct with your physician and to ask them if any other medications, including generics, are available. Also, consult with your pharmacist.