Friday, April 27, 2007

From Pharma Blogs: Week in Review

Physicians and pharma

On Wednesday, the New England Journal of Medicine released a study that showed 94% of physicians have at least one type of relationship with the drug industry, mostly in the form of receiving food in the workplace or prescription samples. More than one third are reimbursed for costs associated with professional meetings or continuing medical education, and more than a quarter receive honoraria for consulting, lecturing, or enrolling patients in clinical trials, say researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital-Partners Health Care System, Yale University, and the University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia.

"Relationships with industry are a fundamental part of the way medicine is practiced today,” says lead researcher and co-author Eric Campbell, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine at the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “The real questions relate to how much is too much and how far is too far. It appears that these relationships benefit physicians and industry, but the important policy question is to what extent do these relationships benefit patients in the terms of the care they receive.”

Dr. Peter Rost puts it more bluntly, saying “U.S. Doctors: 94% of them are Johns.” “Should we be upset with the Johns satisfying their cravings or the ladies of the night meeting their demand and turning tricks?” Dr. Rost asks. “I suggest that most of those companies are just giving the Johns what they want. The Johns are the most highly paid professional group in the country, but money is never enough. Free samples, pizza, and cheap pens clearly are irresistible.”

At the Wall Street Journal’s blog, a post by Jacob Goldstein gives another perspective on the meaning of the study. “Readers of the Health Blog are unlikely to be shocked by the paper’s finding that drug makers court doctors assiduously (and that doctors accept industry’s advances),” Mr. Goldstein says. “But quantifying industry influence may help the profession figure out what, if anything, to do about it.”

Ed Silverman at Pharmalot also commented on the NEJM study, and he provides a link to the funders of the study, the Institute on Medicine as a Profession. According to IMAP, the group “seeks to cultivate a commitment to professionalism that will serve as the primary motivation for physician self-regulation.” (More about the group can be found here.)

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