Last week a group, ProPublica, launched a website and a searchable database of physicians who have received payments from industry for a wide variety of services or relationships. In addition to the release of this site, several articles appeared in the press that are important to the topic of interactions with industry.
Most notable of the articles was one where significant concerns were raised about the types of experts industry may have been using at times as so called knowledge leaders. Obviously such stories are quite concerning and if true in any way raise all sorts of concerns regarding professionalism and ethics in healthcare.
It is also important to point out that the data released from the companies that is then made available via the aforementioned website comes from the industries presently releasing information through their websites. At present these companies are not using standard definitions or approaches to the release of information and thus some of it may be misleading. For instance, it is possible that some of the funds were reimbursements for travel-related expenses that the public might find very appropriate. This is not stated to minimize some of the concerns raised, but merely to point out that for data to be useful when combined standardization of definitions, taxonomy, and timeframes are required.
The website mentioned at the start of this blog can be found at http://projects.propublica.org/docdollars/.