Is A Drug Company Paying Your Doctor?

April 2011, Warren Matthews

Summary

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.

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!

2 Comments

  • “I have had the opportunity to work in high level management positions in hospitals, managed care and physician offices. I found this article a little one sided. Is the point of your article that you believe it is wrong to provide additional compensation to a physician for participating in drug research or speaking engagements to impart what he/she has learned about using a drug or are you questioning the ethics of most physicians? MOST physicians I know prescribe what they think is the most efficacious for their patients, and their decisions to prescribe have little to do with any compensation paid to them by the pharmaceutical industry. Compensating physicians for their time and resources to participate in clinical trials of new drugs is also not unreasonable. There is a tremendous amount of work and resources that go in to participating in clinical research studies. At least this process helps determine the usefulness of newer drugs and brings useful information to the medical industry and patient care. I cannot say the same for our managed care companies who have cut deals with the pharma companies to drive patient utilization of drugs in the direction that has the most lucritive financial benefit for both their corporations. In addition, because of the relationship between managed care and pharma doctors can, in many cases, no longer prescribe medications that they feel are the best choice for patients based on patient outcomes. Doctors are being told they MUST use what the managed care companies say or the patient will not be covered. In many cases the formulary choices made by managed care companies are based on their relationships with certain pharma companies and not soley on the best clinical outcomes. What has been impacted by statements that infer that doctors are receiving payment to use certain drugs is a tremendous cut back of sample medications that are now available to physicians and consequently to their patients. Where a doctor could provide a patient with a sample medicine in the past, patients now need to pay for a prescription before they even know if the medicine will work for them. As with ANY profession, there are ethical and non-ethical participants. I believe that patients are the ones who ultimately pay the price when false ideas about their physicians are circulated. It only serves to undermine the relationship between the patient and his MD. By the way, I am not a physican. I am a nurse with extensive experience in many aspects of healthcare. What I saw in my 8 years as a corporate executive with managed care was appalling. Fingers should not be pointed in the direction of physicians but rather a closer look at managed care practices and the pharma decisions that are being made in the name of quality care.”

    Cindy - April 08 2011

  • “this is mahmudul islam from bangladesh. i am a student of Telecommunication Engineering. I’m also an wellness activist and i am with forever living products, the 10th largest direct selling company in the world (according to 2009 sales figure). we have nearly 300 products in different categories all of which have aloe vera as the common ingredient. our products are superb and we have billions of customers in 150 countries who are getting the extraordinary benefits of our exclusive products daily. i went to our local doctor to talk about one of our top-selling products, namely Arctic sea Omega-3. the man i went to is a cardiologist and he has received special training on heart disease from USA. the moment i started talking about our products with him in his chamber, i was astonished to see his reaction. i was expressing such an attitude that i think can be translated as `i don’t wanna know the goddamn details of how great your product is, i just wanna know how much you are going to pay me for prescribing your product!’ i was really shocked at his attitude. then i came to realize that although he was a heart specialist, he had lost his conscience and he was just using his degree for earning money. this is the reality in most cases”

    mahmudul islam - April 17 2011

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