SAN ANTONIO - The sick are seeking medical advice online more often these days. Doctors advise patients to always ask for a second opinion and to do some research, especially when it comes to relationship between physicians and pharmaceutical companies who are lining their pockets.
Johns Hopkins' Dr. Matthew DeCamp recently wrote about doctors failing to disclose online all the trips, meals and consulting fees they've received from pharmaceutical companies, money that studies show can influence a doctor and the care they provide.
"We know state medical boards have received complaints about physicians failing to disclose potential conflicts online, said DeCamp. What we don't know is whether any of these conflicts have resulted in harm to patients."
Dr. DeCamp says professional guidelines do exist online. For example, healthtap.com requires doctors to disclose conflicts of interest, such as stock ownership and financial interest in a pharmaceutical company. But, what worries Dr. DeCamp is that there is no clear-cut approach in how to achieve disclosure.
"My concern with patients online and using social networks for health information really has to do with the level of trust they place in that particular interaction and in some cases that trust may or may not be warranted," said DeCamp.
Information complied by ProPublica, a non-profit website, shows hundreds of Texas doctors accepted money from 12 pharmaceutical companies between 2009 and 2011. The amount totaled $59,499,510. You can see if your doctor is accepting money from pharmaceutical companies by clicking here http://projects.propublica.org/docdollars/