Bioethics Discussion Blog: Doctors Educating Doctors the Drug Company Way

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Doctors Educating Doctors the Drug Company Way

I didn't know that 25 percent of the physicians in the U.S. have become representatives of the pharmaceutical companies, having given talks to other physicians for money to educate them to prescribe the drug companies favorite drugs. That statistic and a description of one psychiatrist physician's one year experience in this "job" comes from an article in today's New York Times Magazine Section

Read it, learn and think about the benefit (whose benefit?) and harms (whose harms?) of this kind of physician recruiting and use by the drug companies. Also the psychiatrist describes the process of "prescription data-mining", the method by which phamaceutical companies get information about patient prescription writing by physicians, a topic discussed in my last thread on prescription privacy issues.

Do you want your doctor to take a drug company paid side-job to advertise to the doctors? Let me know. ..Maurice. p.s.-I am not one of the 25%.

4 Comments:

At Monday, November 26, 2007 10:04:00 AM, Anonymous js md said...

Well I skimmed the article to see where the 25% number derives from. Unfortunately it is not documented, just saying that one study estimated the percentage as 25%. I doubt that figure. It could well be 25% of doctors in academic medicine or with other published credentials, but it's nowhere near 25% of physicians in private practice.
In my 40 years of practice I have only once been offered a significant honorarium just to come listen to a lecture about a drug and eat a free meal. I don't think they can do that anymore.
Drug companies get away with all kinds of abuses in this country. The FDA should never have permitted direct advertising to patients. Their detailing to physicians is bad enough. I personally never pay any attention to drug company propaganda unless it's an article from a respected journal.

 
At Monday, November 26, 2007 7:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I am certainly no drug rep apologist, I think it is important to look at this situation with a very balanced approach. All doctors who take money from drug companies to speak (honorarium) are not 'bad', nor are they all encouraged to stay on topic about a particular drug.

The difficult thing in any of these situations is to assess what motivations any person has for speaking for drug companies, and putting the credibility of their medical license on the line. But for the listener, this is difficult to achieve.

I once went to Las Vegas to give a talk on general pain control. The trip was paid for by a maker of IV Methadone (basically an orphan drug). Now, anyone who knows anything about basic pain control knows that you are not going to be using IV methadone as a first line, so it was not even part of the talk. And the reason I had been asked to give the talk was because our hospice pharmacy was a strong advocate of appropriate use of compounded (not branded) methadone (IV and PO). Do I feel I was influenced? Possibly, but unlikely. I was an advocate for methadone (a generic drug) for pain control long before they came to me, and still am even though I have never since given a talk for them.

And has anyone noticed that no one balks at drug companies sponsoring conferences? Or the whole issues of JAMA? How come no one brings up these things when talking about undue influence?

 
At Monday, November 26, 2007 9:17:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

I, personally, am suspicious of drug company sponsored conferences.. though I have gone to them. I am willing to learn about the current understanding of the pathophysiology of disease (and,yes,they provide you with some good and presumably valid tidbits) but when it comes to the discussing of drugs, especially the company's product, I hesitate to swallow the "facts" without a little chewing. ..Maurice.

 
At Friday, November 30, 2007 10:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take a look at the CAMPAIGN FOR PRESCRIPTION PRIVACY just initiated by Patient Privacy Rights, a small non-profit concerned with protecting patient privacy. The CAMPAIGN features an online petition and online video. The Campaign asks for a ban on using prescription data for marketing purposes unless express informed consent is given. Consumers should start going to chain drugstores and demand that the chains stop selling data until better laws protecting medical privacy are in place. The website of Patient Privacy Rights can be accessed at: http://www.patientprivacyrights.org

 

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