Rose advises patients to ask their doctors about possible conflicts of interest. In the U.S., patients can look up physicians’ relationships with drug manufacturers on a website from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services called Open Payments Data.
Kanter suggests that patients who learn their doctors have conflicts of interest consider getting a second opinion.
Prasad began thinking about conflicts of interest in tweets a few years ago, when he got into a Twitter dispute about whether physicians should engage in a debate over drug costs.
As the argument heated up, Prasad divided the dueling doctors into two camps—those in favor of discussing the price of drugs and those opposed. Then he looked up which ones took money from drug companies.
Of five physicians who argued that doctors should advocate for lower drug costs, only one had taken money from a drug company, and it was a single $400 payment. The five who argued that doctors should stay out of the discussion of drug prices had taken payments of between $20,000 and $30,000, Prasad says.
Earlier this year, Prasad published his first study on tweeting doctors. Nearly 80% of more than 600 U.S. hematologist-oncologists who tweeted had a conflict, his report in JAMA Internal Medicine found.2
Doctors should disclose possible conflicts in their Twitter profile biographies, possibly with a link to more complete disclosure, Prasad and his colleagues wrote in the earlier study. When doctors tweet about products from companies with which they have conflicts, the researchers advised using the hashtag abbreviation for financial conflict of interest—#FCOI.
- Kaestner V, Brown A, Tao D, et al. Conflicts of interest in Twitter. Lancet Haematol. 2017 Sep;4(9):e408-e409. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3026(17)30109-6.
- Tao DL, Boothby A, McLouth J, Prasad V. Financial conflicts of interest among hematologist-oncologists on Twitter. JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Mar 1;177(3):425–427. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.8467.