Ads On Widely-Used Medical App May Wield Dangerous Influence On Doctors

Nearly half of American doctors rely on virtual assistants that fit inside their pockets. They’re smartphone apps made by Epocrates, and they help guide healthcare professionals through drug dosing and insurance information, but they also pimp out suggestions for sponsored medications. Some worry the apps may hinder doctors’ work by urging them to place sponsor dollars over patients’ needs.

The New York Times reports the apps inundate doctors with messages sponsored by pharmaceutical companies when they try to look up drugs.

The Food and Drug Administrations says it’s still attempting to get a handle on drug companies’ new ways of electronic marketing, but an associate professor of medicine who founded a group that criticizes pharmaceutical companies’ marketing practices says the apps are bad medicine:

“With targeted ads in Google, you may buy something that’s an unwise purchase. But when a physician is influenced in Epocrates, it’s the patient who’s bearing the financial and health risk.”

In a securities filing, Epocrates says it must weigh the needs of doctors, because if it alienates them they’ll stop using the products:

“The credibility of our brand is dependent in large part on the medical community’s continued perception of us as independent from our health care industry clients, particularly pharmaceutical companies.”

Drug App Comes Free, Ads Included [The New York Times]