Link Found Between Industry Payments to Oncologists and Non-Recommended Cancer Treatments, Study Reveals

Link Found Between Industry Payments to Oncologists and Non-Recommended Cancer Treatments, Study Reveals


A recent study published by The BMJ has found a link between payments made by the industry to oncologists and a higher likelihood of patients receiving non-recommended and low-value cancer treatments. This discovery raises concerns about the quality of care being provided to cancer patients and suggests a need to re-examine the current practice of personal payments from drug companies to physicians.

Previous research has consistently shown a connection between industry payments and prescribing behavior. However, until now, it has not been empirically evaluated whether these payments have positive or negative consequences for patient care.

To delve deeper into this issue, the researchers analyzed Medicare claims data of patients diagnosed with cancer between 2014 and 2019 who were at risk of receiving four specific non-recommended or low-value drugs. These drugs included denosumab, a bone modifying drug for castration-sensitive prostate cancer, granulocyte colony-stimulating factors (GCSF) to prevent neutropenic fever in patients undergoing chemotherapy, nab-paclitaxel as an alternative to paclitaxel for breast or lung cancer, and the use of branded cancer drugs when generic or similar versions were available.

The researchers used the Open Payments database, which tracks financial relationships between companies and physicians, to identify each patient’s assigned oncologist and any payments they had received from the manufacturers of the four drugs in the year leading up to the patient’s diagnosis.

The results of the study revealed that patients whose oncologist had received payments from the industry were more likely to be prescribed non-recommended treatments. For example, 49.5% of patients whose oncologist had received payments were prescribed denosumab, compared to 31.4% of patients whose oncologist had not received payments. Similar patterns were observed for GCSF, nab-paclitaxel, and branded drugs.

Even after adjusting for factors such as patient age, pre-existing conditions, income, and physician characteristics, the study found that industry payments were associated with a higher use of denosumab, GCSF, and nab-paclitaxel, but a lower usage of branded drugs.

Although this study only shows an association between industry payments and prescribing behavior and cannot establish causality, it highlights the potential negative impact of these payments on the care provided to individual patients.

Considering the concerns raised by this study regarding the quality of care, the researchers suggest it may be necessary to reconsider the practice of personal payments from the drug industry to physicians. They also emphasize the need for further research to determine the extent to which industry payments affect care quality in other settings.

It is important to note that this research is an observational study, and there may be limitations such as misclassification in claims data and a narrow focus on specific patients and interventions. Nevertheless, it provides valuable insights into the influence of industry payments on physicians’ behavior and its potential consequences for patient care.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it