8 Ways to Earn Extra Income From Medical Activities

Leigh Page


March 22, 2016

In This Article

6. Partner With Pharmaceutical or Device Companies

Payments from drug and device manufacturers for advice and speeches continue to be a source of extra income for many physicians, even though this practice has lost some of its luster now that these payments become public knowledge owing to the so-called Sunshine Act.

Since September 30, 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been reporting payment information on its Open Payments website.[13] The program, based on information that manufacturers are now required to report, was authorized by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The CMS data are crunched by ProPublica, a journalists' group, on a site[14] that allows consumers to easily look up payments to a particular doctor.

As recently as 2012, an estimated[15] one fourth of US physicians were being paid by manufacturers for speaking engagements and consultations (as opposed to receiving free meals from drug representatives, which are also reported). But in that year, some drug manufacturers began cutting these payments,[16] and in late 2013, GlaxoSmithKline announced[16] it would stop paying doctors to speak about its drugs altogether.

Device manufacturers may also be cutting back on payments to physicians. Although they haven't announced anything specific, a survey[17] of device manufacturers showed that 39% planned to cut expenses owing to new taxes on devices under the ACA. And 50% of those companies planned to cut research and development, which is the source of payments to doctors.

But Dr McLaughlin, the career consultant, believes many payments will continue and public exposure of the amounts won't harm doctors' reputations. "Patients would not be upset about this," he says. The CMS site[18] supports this view. "Just because there are financial ties doesn't mean that anyone is doing anything wrong," the site explains.

There are many different aspects of this work, so if one part doesn't appeal to you, another one might. "You could speak for them [drug or device manufacturers], or serve as an advisor," Dr McLaughlin says. "If you don't want to be a speaker, you can write up a report in your home. Or you could help the company present data to the FDA. Or you could make your practice a site that participates in clinical trials."

For many of these functions, he says, you'll need to have good presentation or writing skills. You'll also need to get training on the drug company's product line, FDA-approved product labeling, and other regulatory requirements. Manufacturers typically pay $1000 per speech,[19] and you can give the same speech several times.

"Opportunities to work with pharma won't go away, because this is important work," Dr McLaughlin says. "Getting the information about a drug out to physician audiences is crucial."

Pros: Pharmaceutical companies make generous payments to physicians who advise them and give speeches about their products. There's a wide variety of work to choose from.

Cons: Even though they're legal, any payments you get will be listed on a public website. Some companies are limiting or stopping certain payments to physicians.


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