My recent blog, "Ending the doctor gravy train," that explored how health care reform plans to make transparent the commonplace practice of doctors accepting gifts of food, money and junkets from pharmaceutical companies really hit a nerve with doctors out there.
Here's a sampling:
Doc: This article is ridiculous. Virtually all gifts and freebies that doctors might have been given in decades past stopped years ago by mutual agreement from all the major pharma companies. This article is totally off base.
JP MD: The pharmaceutical industry itself agreed to stop offering such extravagant perks to doctors to pitch their drugs many years ago. Even when I was a premed, the most a drug rep would provide a doctor at the office would be lunch for the staff, some articles, and a short lecture. I currently work at a hospital, as a senior medical resident, that has virtually banned pharmaceutical representatives from soliciting propaganda to medical trainees (I have attended 2 "drug-sponsored" lunches in 3 years, served with our normal noontime lecture).
Big City Doc: It always strikes me as odd when one of the least ethical groups in America, the Congress (75% of whom are lawyers), seeks to control the ethical behavior of the most ethical group in America, the physicians. Our government runs on SuperPacs, lobbyists, influence peddling, but doctors are likely to sell their soul for a pad of sticky notes. Given the effects government has had on medicine to date, their biggest and best contribution in the future would be to stay out of healthcare.
Robert Skversky: As a practicing Bariatric physician (medical weight-loss) who uses pharmacotherapy (off-label) with great safety and long term efficacy; my staff and I are brought "free lunch" about every 2 months by a variety of intelligent, well trained pharmaceutical reps. They are usually accompanied by a physician who is an expert in his/her specialty of medicine who gives a meaningful and informative discussion relating to a particular drug prior to an open exchange of ideas and questions. No trips to Hawaii, and no gifts of money. PS The "free" food?? usually mediocre and too many carbs!
My take? Obviously drug companies aren't flying all doctors to golf resorts to get them to use tongue depressors. Presumably they're spending their marketing budgets on those specialists in a position to prescribe their latest, greatest and costliest products.
In fact, during my recent chat with Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, he brought up the subject in the context of gene testing. Here's an excerpt:
A company flies oncologists, surgeons, some GYNs to Utah, gives them this two-day discussion about screening with gene testing, sends them back to their offices, then the company buys local air time about gene testing and genetic screening with an 800 number. If you call the 800 number, you get referred to one of these docs, who are not trained as genetic counselors.
If junkets and cash gifts are as outdated as these readers claim, then there should be no harm in requiring the pharmaceutical companies to post what they've given to whom online under health care reform.
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