When a doctor prescribes a certain drug, is he or she doing it because it is in the best interest of their patient or because the drug company has given the doctor a free trip to the Super Bowl. A recent report in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry found that in Australia doctors receive an average of 42 gifts and “educational items” over an 8 week period. 23% of Australian specialists are on drug company advisory boards, receiving free travel and expenses to domestic and international locations. The former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Marcia Angell, had this to say about the growing practice of the drug companies “buying” doctors: “Over the past two decades the pharmaceutical industry has moved very far from its original high purpose of discovering and producing useful new drugs. Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, this industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way. Most of the industry’s marketing efforts are focused on influencing doctors, since they must write the prescriptions.” The time has come for the medical profession to clamp down of these abuses. Congress should make it illegal for drug companies to give anything of value to doctors.
The pharmaceutical industry in Australia was dealt a bitter blow this week when a three-member panel headed by Justice Robert French ruled that Medicines Australia, the industry body covering more than 90 per cent of drug companies in Australia, could only continue to self-regulate its code of conduct if all drug companies twice a year forwarded complete information on hospitality: the venues, the number and types of professionals invited, the total cost of food, travel, accommodation and entertainment. This information would be published on a freely accessible internet database.
For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.