Doctors have long disputed that the payments they receive from pharmaceutical companies have any relationship to how they prescribe drugs.

There’s been little evidence to settle the matter — until now.

A ProPublica analysis has found for the first time that doctors who receive payments from the medical industry do indeed tend to prescribe drugs differently than their colleagues who don’t. And the more money they receive, on average, the more brand-name medications they prescribe.

We matched records on payments from pharmaceutical and medical device makers in 2014 with corresponding data on doctors’ medication choices in Medicare’s prescription drug program. (You can read our methodology here.)

Doctors who got money from drug and device makers—even just a meal– prescribed a higher percentage of brand-name drugs overall than doctors who didn’t, our analysis showed. Indeed, doctors who received industry payments were two to three times as likely to prescribe brand-name drugs at exceptionally high rates as others in their specialty.

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