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Industry payments to US physicians for cancer therapeutics: An analysis of the 2016–2018 open payments datasets



Many oncologists who lead guidelines and clinical trials have financial conflicts of interest (fCOI) with industry. However, the extent to which fCOI reaches all cancer care providers is not known. Here we describe industry payments across all cancer care specialties by specific drug.


This observational, retrospective cohort study used Open Payments to describe general payments (i.e. consulting fees, meals, travel) to all US physicians for any cancer medicine during 2016-2018. Endpoints included number and value of payments by specialty, drug, and year.


During 2016-2018, industry made general payments to 52 441 physicians for 137 unique cancer drugs. Annual number of payments (465 655 in 2018) and total value ($98.5 million in 2018) increased over the study period (20 % and 31 % increase since 2016). Medical/hematologic oncologists, surgical oncologists and radiologists received the highest total value of payments, accounting for $65.7 million (67 % of total), $13.4 million (14 % of total) and $10.8 million (11 % of total) in 2018. In 2018, 5 % of physicians (n = 1660) received >$10 000 in annual payments and 0.6 % (n = 209) received >$100 000. Pembrolizumab and Nivolumab, were associated with the highest total payment in each year, accounting for 12 % and 6 % (2018) of total value, respectively.


While prior work has identified fCOIs among oncology leaders, these data suggest that payments extend across the cancer system.

Policy summary

Pre-existing data suggest a strong relationship between industry payments and physician prescribing. The current study demonstrates that fCOIs among oncology prescribers are pervasive. The oncology community must consider the extent to which these relationships influence clinical practice and regulatory policies.

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