Today’s Wall Street Journal reports on findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine which suggest “that even a single free meal can boost the likelihood a doctor will prescribe a certain drug.”
As you read this, think about the parallels with dietitians who are wooed by the likes of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and McDonald’s with all-inclusive trips and lavish dinners.
- “The study found that U.S. doctors who received a single free meal from a drug company were more likely to prescribe the drug the company was promoting than doctors who received no such meals. Meals paid for by drug companies cost less than $20 on average.”
- “The findings, published online Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine, were based on an analysis of U.S. government data tracking both industry payments to doctors and physicians’ prescriptions of drugs paid for by the Medicare Part D drug benefit for the elderly.”
- “Drug-sales representatives routinely bring free food and beverages to doctors’ offices in an effort to get face time to promote their medicines. They also invite doctors to free dinners at restaurants to hear other doctors speak about certain drugs. The industry says the practice helps to educate doctors about the appropriate use of new medicines. Critics say it can improperly influence medical decisions and inflate drug costs.”
- “Prior studies have shown that large payments can sway physicians’ prescribing habits. The new study shows that even relatively small payments or gifts are associated with increased prescribing of the promoted brands, said the lead study author, R. Adams Dudley, a professor of medicine and health policy at the University of California, San Francisco.”
- “JAMA Internal Medicine editor-at-large Robert Steinbrook wrote in an accompanying editorial that “there are inherent tensions between the profits of health care companies, the independence of physicians and the integrity of our work, and the affordability of medical care.” If companies stopped spending on meals and promotional-speaking fees, they could spend more on medical research, he said.”
- “The researchers found that doctors who received one meal linked to Crestor promotion were 18% more likely to choose Crestor over alternatives than doctors receiving no Crestor-related meals. The increases in the probability of prescribing the other drugs were 70% for Bystolic; 52% for Benicar; and 118% for Pristiq.”