PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new report from Philadelphia health officials shows doctors from the area received $1.5 million worth of free meals over just one year, all paid for by pharma companies. City officials call that health report alarming, worried that meals paid by Pharma companies could influence doctors.
Some doctors in the area received $1.5 million in meals from pharmaceutical companies just in 2018, according to a newly released report from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
“That’s a dangerous practice,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.
Farley says free meals by doctors offered by big pharma are, at least, partly to blame for the city’s opioid epidemic and now, pharma companies are still providing free meals to doctors like these with other drugs.
“Studies show that the more free lunches that an opioid manufacturer buys for doctors, the more opioid prescriptions he writes,” Farley said.
One pain specialist named in the report is Dr. Ben Kaplan with offices in Northeast Philadelphia. The report shows Kaplan had more than 70 meals paid by pharmaceutical companies in 2018. His office had no comment, but people who spoke with CBS3 had plenty to say.
“And even when the doctor thinks that doesn’t influence him, the studies show that it does,” Farley said.
“Absolutely they could be influenced,” a woman said.
“It’s bad, it’s upsetting,” another woman said.
Another doctor listed in the report is Neil Anand of Bucks County. CBS3 was at his Bensalem home last year when it was raided by the FBI.
Anand was also charged by federal authorities last year after being accused of running a pill mill.
“There’s something really wrong with this,” Philadelphia Councilmember Cindy Bass said.
Bass plans to introduce a bill that would end the practice of doctors accepting free meals.
“There is a concern about the influence of these sales, people and the prescriptions,” Bass said.
Officials say major Philadelphia health systems — like Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania — do not allow its doctors to be bought and paid for by free lunches.
To read the full report, click here.