ProPublica’s “Dollars For Docs” Database

old computer.jpgA while ago, I blogged about a new Massachusetts database that allows patients to look up all payments that drug and medical device companies have made to their doctors. It’s a nice tool but it’s not very user-friendly.
ProPublica has compiled a more limited but more user-friendly database that details the payments that eight drug companies have made to doctors. You can try it for yourself here.
Over at, Dr. Daniel Carlat shared his experiences of using the ProPublica database in a post entitled, “ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs: Strengths and Weaknesses.”
Dr. Carlat writes:

“Anyway, I scrolled down the chart looking for the more well-funded docs, and in doing so I quickly comprehended what is probably the most striking aspect of this database–the sheer enormity of it. Sure, I already knew from published surveys that well over 100,000 doctors receive cash from drug companies. But that number becomes much more tangible as you scroll through an endless list of doctors’ names, each associated with a specific dollar amount. The thought that runs through your mind is: “How have we allowed this to happen to our once proud profession?””

He concludes:

“The true malfeasance here is in the aggregated effect. The companies are using these legions of doctors to artificially manipulate medical discourse. Any doctor who participates in the enterprise knows exactly how they are being used. You decide whether this is “immoral” or not.”

While, as Dr. Carlat points out, the ProPublica database does not give you much idea of what the doctors receive the money for (other than its being non-research-related), I don’t really see that as a defect of the database. Databases such as these need not be a stopping point; instead they can be a starting point in the dialogue between doctor and patient.

This blog in maintained by Boston medical malpractice lawyers at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C. It does not offer legal advice, nor should you construe it as offering legal advice on a medical malpractice claim that you should have.