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Brief Report
December 18, 2013

Medical Communication Companies and Industry Grants

Author Affiliations
  • 1Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York
  • 2College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York
JAMA. 2013;310(23):2554-2558. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.281638

Importance  Medical communication companies (MCCs) are among the most significant health care stakeholders, supported mainly by drug and device companies. How MCCs share or protect physicians’ personal data requires greater transparency.

Objective  To explore the financial relationships between MCCs and drug and device companies, to describe the characteristics of the large MCCs, and to explore whether they accurately represent themselves to physicians.

Design  We combined data from the 2010 grant registries of 14 pharmaceutical and device companies; grouped recipients into categories such as MCCs, academic medical centers, disease-targeted advocacy organizations, and professional associations; and created a master list of 19 272 grants.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Determine the distribution of funds from drug and device companies to various entities and assess the characteristics of large MCCs.

Results  Of the 6493 recipients of more than $657 million grant awards from drug and device companies, 18 of 363 MCCs received 26%, academic medical centers received 21%, and disease-targeted organizations received 15%. For-profit MCCs received 77% of funds (208 of 363). Among the top 5% of MCCs, 14 of 18 were for-profit. All 18 offered continuing medical education: 14 offered live and 17 offered online CME courses. All required physicians to provide personal data. Ten stated that they shared information with unnamed third parties. Eight stated they did not share information, but almost all added exceptions. None required explicit physician consent to their sharing policies.

Conclusions and Relevance  Medical communication companies receive substantial support from drug and device companies. Physicians who interact with MCCs should be aware that all require personal data from the physician and some share these data with unnamed third parties.