As if January 1st of this year, drug companies have voluntarily agreed to stop providing branded gifts to physicians.
Do gifts from pharmaceutical companies influence how physicians prescribe?
Trust in the pharmaceutical industry is at an all-time low. Numerous reports have described lavish events at which the latest, most expensive medications are marketed to doctors. and there is suspicion that clinical studies backed by drug companies have been biased towards brand name medications. The gift ban is a clear attempt at damage control before the incoming Obama administration’s scrutiny.
Some see medication-branded office supplies as harmless, and are offended by the idea that doctors are actually influenced by pens and notebooks. But the numbers say otherwise. Promotional products are a $19 billion industry, and Big Pharma would not spend that kind of money if it didn’t pay off.
And still left uncapped – the speaking fees that doctors receive from drug companies – and the money the pharmaceutical industry spends to fund continuing medical education. Furthermore, physicians’ offices will still receive free medication samples, making it easier to start unsuspecting patients on expensive trials of branded drugs.
Until these issues are addressed, the drug industry will maintain significant influence over physicians’ prescribing patterns.
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