Study shows pharma compensates genders differently

Study shows women receive less research money than men
Study shows women receive less research money than men

Women receive less research funding from pharma than men, according to a Cleveland Clinic study of data disclosing financial relationships between industry and physicians.

The data dive by Cleveland Clinic researchers looked into publicly reported financial relationships that 747,603 physicians had with 432 healthcare agencies, an umbrella term that includes pharmaceutical companies and device makers. Researchers said industry paid researchers about $17.9 million to almost 221,000 physicians in 2011 and 75% of the recipients were men.

In short, women receive less money than men from pharma, but lead researcher Susannah Rose told MM&M that this is not just “another study that shows women are making less than men” for similar work. The study shows that pharma's research dollars overwhelming go to men, putting female researchers at a significant disadvantage when it comes to participating in medical innovation.

Rose, who is the director of bioethics and policy at the Cleveland Clinic, said this is important because pharma's contributions to medical research dwarf financing from other sectors, which include a scientist's academic medical center or hospital, nonprofits and government grants.

The researchers found that industry paid women an average of $3,598 less than men, and that women also receive less money from pharma than their male counterparts when it came to items including food, education and speaking fees. In terms of research, women receive an average of $15,000 less than men. Men and women have similar medical school graduation rates.

They also found that the prestige of a hospital or academic medical center did little to narrow the gap between money given to women and men, and in fact that the gender difference in compensation increased the more prestigious the institution.

Researchers could not explain why women receive less money from pharma than men and said causes may include gender bias, physician preferences for working with industry varying by gender or if women are less motivated by money than men. Rose said it is unlikely industry is not aware that the majority of its money goes to men because financial transparency regarding physician payments has been happening over the past decade.

“These types of trends ... can be seen quite clearly, so I can't imagine that nobody looked at this before,” Rose said, also noting that she was surprised at the pervasiveness of the compensation divide.

Rose said the publication of Open Payments data could spur women to see what their male peers are making and ask for more money from pharma. The Open Payments database, which was created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by a provision of the Affordable Care Act, launched last year. The next roundup of data about financial relationships between industry and healthcare providers is expected to go live June 30.