I think it is safe to say that all patients want to feel confident in their doctor’s medication recommendations. No patient wants his/her doctor prescribing a particular medication to fatten their own wallet, not to benefit the patient’s health. Same is true for medical devices. Unfortunately, studies show that pharmaceutical companies influence our doctors’ medication recommendations.
Pharmaceutical companies influence doctors. What’s the problem?
Your doctor may be influenced by pharmaceutical companies to recommend a particular medication, even though a different medication may be more effective and/or less costly. Obviously, this can delay your healing and may even harm your health. And it can waste your money.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America created the PhRMA Code to ensure a professional relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies. The goal is to stop pharmaceuticals from giving doctors financial incentives to prescribe particular medications.
The updated PhrMA Code states that their “relationships with health care professionals are regulated by multiple entities and are intended to benefit patients and to enhance the practice of medicine.” The code directs pharma employees to focus on “informing health care professionals about products, providing scientific and educational information and supporting medical education.”
The pharmaceutical industry created these guidelines to stop the once common practice of pharmaceutical companies providing expensive vacations and other luxuries to doctors. It is important to note that pharma companies can legally pay doctors, as long as the payments do not serve as inducements to get doctors to use or recommend a particular product.
Are doctors following guidelines?
There is strong evidence that despite rules and fines, pharmaceutical companies are still influencing doctors.
A study found that doctors increased their prescriptions for a particular company’s medications after receiving payments from the medication’s manufacturer. The structure of the payment, as well as the type of doctor, influenced prescription habits.
When pharma companies pay doctors fees for speaking or consulting, the likelihood of doctors prescribing their medications increases. This was also true for specialists who received any type of payments. Interestingly, when doctors (non-specialists) received payments for food, beverages, gifts, or educational materials, they also increased their prescribing, but less dramatically than the other categories. The authors of this study state they cannot prove causation between payments to doctors and increased prescribing.
Other studies have shown a similar correlation. Another study found a link between the free meals offered by pharmaceutical companies and increased prescriptions. It turns out that a nice roast beef sandwich might be enough to influence your doctor!
What kinds of doctors are receiving payments?
It turns out that all kinds of doctors are getting payments, including those disciplined for serious medical misconduct. An NPR article states that at least 400 pharmaceutical and medical device makers have made payments to doctors who were disciplined by their state medical boards, including those disciplined for severe offenses such as providing poor care, sexual misconduct and inappropriately prescribing addictive medications.
Want to find out about your doctor?
Pharmaceutical and medical device companies must release details of payments made to doctors and U.S. teaching hospitals. This includes payments for promotional talks, research and consulting, and other categories. Wondering if your doctor is accepting payments from pharmaceutical and/or medical device companies? You can look up your doctor on:
- From ProPublica: Dollars for Docs
- From the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service: OpenPaymentsData.cms.gov
Since all medications have the potential to cause harm, it’s important to know how to reduce your risk of medication-related issues. Read these blog posts to learn more:
- What’s an Adverse Drug Reaction?
- Reduce Your Risk of Medication Errors.
- Dangers of Black-Market Medications – More Common Than you Think.
- Are Antibiotics Helpful or Harmful? What You Need to Know.
- Doctors Prescribe Too Many Medications.
- Are Medications Safe?
- The Dangers of Too Many Tests and Treatments for Patients.