Purpose: Many oncologists have relationships with industry. Previous work has shown that these payments are usually modest; however, there exist a subset of medical oncologists who receive more than $100,000 US dollars (USD) annually. Here, we describe the characteristics of these physicians.
Methods: This retrospective cohort study used the Open Payments data set to identify all US-based medical oncologists/hematologists who received $100,000+ USD in general payments linked to cancer medications in 2018. Open Payments and a web-based search were used to identify physician characteristics, demographics, research profile, and leadership positions.
Results: One hundred thirty-nine medical oncologists received > $100,000 USD in general payments. The median payment was $154,613 USD, and the total payment was $24.2 million USD. These high-payment physicians represent 1% of all US medical oncologists (N = 10,620) yet account for 37% of all industry payments in 2018. Sixty percent (84 of 139) and 21% (29 of 139) of these high-payment physicians hold hospital and specialty association leadership roles, respectively. One quarter (24%, 33 of 139) serve on journal editorial boards, and 10% (14 of 139) have authored clinical practice guidelines; 72% (100 of 139) hold faculty appointments.
Conclusion: A small number of medical oncologists receive very high payments from the pharmaceutical industry. These physicians hold major leadership roles within oncology. Further work is needed to understand the extent to which these conflicts of interest may shape clinical practice and policy.