Physicians advise on severing drug-industry ties

Relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical representatives, according to some, have strayed from their original purpose, which was to keep doctors up-to-date on new medications that could benefit their patients.

Today, the massive marketing power wielded by pharma companies "doesn't necessarily serve the best interests of the patient in terms of economy, efficacy, safety or accuracy of information," researchers from Oregon State University contend in a new report.

"In the past 5-10 years there's been more of a move toward what we call 'academic detailing,' in which universities and other impartial sources of information can provide accurate information without bias," Daniel Hartung, assistant professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy, noted in a statement. "This is being supported by some states and the federal government, and it's a move in the right direction."

But although most large teaching hospitals have begun relying on peer-reviewed, rather than promotional, literature about new medications, researchers found that 84 percent of primary care physicians still have close relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

A small private practice in Madras, Ore., which was visited by drug reps a staggering 199 times in six months, sought to change its longstanding culture and become "pharma free." The report, published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, details the clinic's "deliberate campaign" to sever all industry ties.

Describing the process of becoming pharma-free as "possible but not easy," study authors discussed how practices can overcome challenges, such as clinician and staff concerns, finding new ways to obtain current information and educating patients and the public.

To learn more:
- read the statement from Oregon State University
- access the JABFM report