Medical Industry Payments to Physicians
The relationships between physicians and medical related companies in the United States, generally acknowledged to be familiar given their mutual interest in patient care, also turn out to be quite lucrative. A survey of U.S. doctors undertaken by Harvard University in 2003 and 2004, in which nearly half of the 3,167 practicing anesthesiologists, cardiologists, family practitioners, general surgeons, internists and pediatricians responded, demonstrates that one-quarter of the respondents acknowledge receiving payments from medical industry companies. Physicians serving as department heads in medical schools and teaching hospitals are also financially tied to the medical industry. In a survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, two-thirds of department heads acknowledge they have financial or other ties to the industry (e.g., received research equipment or money to support residency and fellowship training, continuing medical education and research seminars from companies), 27% report that they worked as paid consultants, 27% report they served on companies? scientific advisory boards, 9% report they founded companies, and 7% report they served as company officers or executives. The above noted financial relationships constitute conflicts of interest, which "occur when physicians have motives or are in situations for which reasonable observers could conclude that the moral requirements of the physician?s roles are or will be compromised," and which pose a "serious threat . . . for professionalism and for the trust that patients have in physicians."