Big drug companies wield too much influence over doctors

Most consumers don't think doctors should have such a tight relationship with big pharma, according to the second annual prescription drug survey conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center, the Consumer Reports Health Blog reports.

The majority oppose the system of payments and rewards that drug companies use to influence how doctors treat patients. The survey polled more than 1,150 adults who are currently on a prescription drug.

More than two in three (69 percent) of those surveyed said pharmaceutical companies wield too much influence over doctors' prescribing decisions. Half of the adults surveyed said they feel doctors are too eager to turn to drug-related remedies rather than considering other ways of managing a condition.

Nearly half (47 percent) said they think gifts from drug companies influence physicians to prescribe certain drugs. Four in 10 said they think doctors tend to prescribe newer, more expensive drugs.

Consumers are leery of other rewards physicians get from the pharma industry. For instance:

  • Close to three in four (72 percent) were unhappy with payments drug companies give doctors for testimonials or serving as a company spokesperson for a drug.
  • Sixty-one percent were concerned that pharma companies pay doctors to speak at industry conferences.
  • Fifty-eight percent expressed concerns that big pharma buys meals for physicians and their staffs.

[Full disclosure: I am not a doctor. But many years ago, I tagged along with a friend, who is a pain doctor, to a lunch sponsored by Pfizer. In this case, Celebrex was the featured drug. The setting was the opulent Russian Tea Room in New York City. The entrée would have cost about $25 on the menu. The whole experience made me wonder how a doctor could accept such invitations and not let the experience affect later prescribing decisions.]

To learn more:
- read the Consumer Reports Health Blog post

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