ProPublica's database attempts transparency by sharing information on the financial transactions between physicians and pharmaceutical companies, but without context the data fall short.
As highlighted in "Utah doctors paid $25.8 million by drug companies" (Tribune, March 11), the database shows that close to 70 percent of the payments from pharmaceutical companies to physicians in Utah go to clinical research, but does not explain what that means. Research can have life-changing impacts for patients with cancer and other debilitating or life-threatening diseases, such as epilepsy, stroke and brain tumors.
For example, industry and physician collaborations have led to the first-ever vaccine to protect against cervical cancer, a breakthrough treatment for cystic fibrosis and a therapy that helps adults suffering from multiple sclerosis. This research takes place in a variety of academic, institutional and other settings, and it is vital to ensuring that we develop better drugs.
With proper context, patients can discover how collaborations between physicians and pharmaceutical companies are working for better health and better medicine.
William T. Couldwell, M.D. Chairman of neurosurgery department University of Utah School of Medicine
Salt Lake City