In addition to the many ‘perks’ handed out to doctors by pharmaceutical companies to induce them to prescribe the latest (translate expensive) drugs, there are also many doctors whom are paid good money for ‘speaking engagements’…where they act as a de facto salesperson for the drug company by being the mouth piece for a carefully prepared script from the public relations company working for the drug company.
“So what” you may think? What’s wrong with that? There would be nothing wrong with it if it was a doctor speaking from their own personal experience or research, but that it not the way it generally is.
These ‘engagements’ are carefully prepared by the PR firm and part of a single objective…and that is to sell more drugs. Using what appear to be ‘independent’ experts helps achieve that objective.
OK…what is the problem if it is scripted and it is not the doctors own views? Well nothing, if it was the whole truth and nothing but the truth…but, once again that is rarely the case. Why? Well important information which may cast a negative light on the drug either directly or indirectly being promoted is usually left out or skimmed over.
There are multiple cases in which a drug is promoted on the strength of one positive study…even though there may be seven other negative ones which have been suppressed or simply never published.
These ‘engagements’ form part of the ‘educational’ process of doctors to help keep them abreast of the “latest developments” in medicine…translate drugs to prescribe, or a medical device to use.
This practice is widespread and promoted fairly heavily. Here is an excerpt from and email sent out a few months ago by ‘Medscape’ an online resource for physicians.
“Drug and device companies spend billions of dollars each year to discover and promote new medicines and treatments, and they rely heavily on doctors to participate in these endeavors whether through clinical trials or serving as a speaker or consultant. It’s not uncommon for physicians to earn a minimum of 5 figures a year either speaking or doing clinical studies within their medical practice. Some doctors make in excess of $100,000 annually on top of their income from seeing patients … With typical payments running about $1,500-$2,500 for a single talk, there’s substantial opportunity to supplement your regular income.”
If you would like to see a list of doctors who receive payment from drug companies click here. By the way, these payments are quite minimal compared to what other ‘consultants’ receive who are in a position of influence in what are on the surface of it impartial organisations. More at a later time!