Doctors Who Have "Close Relationships" With Drug Makers Prescribe Newer, Pricier Drugs

The New York Times is examining doctors who take money from drug companies for ‘educational’ speaking engagements in which they lecture other doctors about the company’s drugs. The NYT says research shows that “doctors who have close relationships with drug makers tend to prescribe more, newer and pricier drugs — whether or not they are in the best interests of patients.” From the NYT:

“When honest human beings have a vested stake in seeing the world in a particular way, they’re incapable of objectivity and independence,” said Max H. Bazerman, a professor at Harvard Business School. “A doctor who represents a pharmaceutical company will tend to see the data in a slightly more positive light and as a result will overprescribe that company’s drugs.”

In Minnesota, a state in which drug company payouts are disclosed to the public, “More than 250 … psychiatrists together earned $6.7 million in drug company money — more than any other specialty. Seven of the last eight presidents of the Minnesota Psychiatric Society have served as consultants to drug makers, according to the Times examination.”

A former drug company representative was forthright in her explanation of the phrama industry’s goals:

“The vast majority of the time that we did any sort of paid relationship with a physician, they increased the use of our drug,” said Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau, a former sales representative for Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson who left the industry in 2002. “I hate to say it out loud, but it all comes down to ways to manipulate the doctors.”

This is all the more reason you should research the medicines you take and discuss them with your doctor. Consumer Reports “Best Buy Drugs” is an excellent place to start. —MEGHANN MARCO

Doctors’ Ties to Drug Makers Are Put on Close View [New York Times]
(Photo: zieak)

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  1. superlayne says:

    I saw a Daily Show report on this.

    They have hot girls work as “representatives.”

    Ethics is obviously a drain on profits.

  2. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    Maybe the public will finally begin to realize that doctors are at least as corrupt as lawyers.

  3. megyay says:

    The Consumer Reports website seems to leave out information on psychiatric meds. The best site I know of on that is the consumer-run http://www.crazymeds.org which has drug descriptions, links to studies, and forums for almost all of the commonly prescribed psychiatric/neurological meds.

  4. embean says:

    how many flight attendants does it take to change a lightbulb?

  5. e10 says:

    This has been going on for decades. I remember a grade-school friend telling me his father (a cardiologist) would get tickets to sporting events. The drug companies are at fault here; in the same vein as Tobacco Lobbyists.

    seg: Not even close. Lawyers are after larger sums.

  6. jgodsey says:

    well duh.

  7. Red_Eye says:

    Naww you dont say! You mean that a Dr, who gets regular visits announcing incentives from a pretty drug company representative is more likely to perscribe that companies drugs? Wow is this why my wife, daughter and I have been perscribed 12 different ‘NEW’ antibiotics this year and a half dozen different types of decongestants that are just remixes of pseudophedrine and dextrathramophin(sp) like Maxifed etc?

    My daughters last bout of meds for a sinus infection was for over $400 prior to insurance paying its portion. That was for ear drops, an antibiotic, and two antihistamines.

    Funny thing was I took the time to reasearch all the drugs and one of the antihistamines is actually based on newer drugs from what I can find. However the rest are not, they are simply new deliver methods, for example Ciprodex are simply new delivery methods for old drugs ( http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT5965549&id=8vMYAAAA… ).

    Once upon a time I was a systems admin for a company, they guy I took over from had lucrative contracts with a printer toner company. They overcharged him for large amounts of toner, and he in turn received home electronics like TV’s stereos etc. I didn’t do it because it was unethical to make my employer pay for my home entertainment system, but obviously some doctors dont live with such an moral imperative.

  8. NoctisEqui says:

    The NYT covered a similar story recently when they investigated the epidemic (sorry) of lunch deliveries to hospitals- paid for by the drug makers, of course. It’s a really shady practice that’s the medical industry is apparently saturated with. Drug companies spend millions a year at just one hospital to have lunch delivered to doctors and nurses to influence them… and because they’re not paying the doctors outright, it’s not technically considered a payout. So f-ing slimy.

    Also, this guy? Talking about how these lectures are a welcome diversion?

    “It beats talking to little old ladies about their bowels,” said Dr. Eric Storvick of Mankato, Minn., who made more than $174,000 between 1998 and 2005 from drug makers.

    Dude, if you don’t want to talk to little old ladies about their health problems, then- oh I don’t know- MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T BE A DOCTOR.

  9. Welcome_to_Oakas says:

    There’s still some hope. There is an organization of physicians whose mission is “to encourage health care providers to practice medicine on the basis of scientific evidence rather than on the basis of pharmaceutical promotion.”

    Check them out at http://www.nofreelunch.org/

    Does the name give it away? They also have a ‘Pen Amnesty’ program where med students and physicians can trade in drug company pens for No Free Lunch pens.

  10. FLConsumer says:

    “No Sh**”

    I forget when the first time I had a pharm rep lunch was, but that happened on a Monday… followed by another one that Tuesday, that Wednesday… at which point I pondered how much longer this could go on. So, I made it my mission. With the exception of 2 days, I was able to find and enjoy a pharm rep lunch for 4 straight weeks. A few days I actually had to choose which lunch to attend.

    After a month of this, I figured that I probably could go on forever. I then thought about the money I saved, which was a nice chunk of change. I then realized who had paid for my lunches at that point — the patients. This left quite a bad taste in my mouth and I’ve actually not had a pharm rep meal since then.

    Some of the Drs were well aware that the meals along with the girls in skirts were just a manipulation scheme and had fun with it. I rather enjoyed watching some of the senior Drs yank the chains of the girls in skirts. Sadly, the drug reps are mostly just a bunch of salespeople with no medical/biological/chemical background whatsoever, so these few doctors had a field day in front of the residents (doctors in training) who did all they could to contain their laughter.

  11. themanishere says:

    @FLConsumer: As a sales person, I’m sure the point of the lunch’s was to present the features and benefits of their products, discuss pricing for your patients, and find out how you were using or not using their products and answer questions you might have. Or did you just show up, eat and leave? If you were smart, you would have kept an open mind, learned something (because neither of us is the smartest person in the world) or shared your experiences/knowledge with the reps. Maybe it’s true the doctor’s knew more than the reps, but in my field where the client should know more than me, it is scary when I my asked a question in which I know the answer and the client sincerely does not.

    Life, and those lunches, are not difficult so don’t make it out to be. Every industry has sales reps–the medical field is no exception.