by S.D. Wells
September 11, 2011
Pharmaceutical firms in the United States are shelling out massive
funds for doctors travel and entertainment expenses in hopes of
boosting sales of new drugs.
More than 160,000 doctors have received
related payments in 2011 already.
The big push includes,
patients fear this all leads to doctors prescribing popular, money
making drugs instead of following standard of care practices.
...top the list of companies also
spending far more on "marketing" than on research, with a total
estimated $57,000 billion in overall marketing expenditures in just
one year in the United States.
Pharmaceutical giants are claiming they are just trying to be open
about how they conduct business, but the statements come at a time
of intense scrutiny, and after several prosecutions regarding
unlawful marketing practices.
In fact, some of these databases were actually set up as part of
settlements of federal criminal investigations into the illegal
marketing of drugs to doctors. Many companies have not released any
data whatsoever, but Lilly and Pfizer combine to have paid out over
90 million dollars.
United States government agencies are preparing guidelines that will
make such information mandatory by 2013.
Currently there are over 80,000
pharmaceutical sales reps in the U.S. pursuing about 800,000
pharmaceutical prescribers, so it can be extremely difficult to
track the money for one doctor from several sources, or to identify
the largest recipients, like an entire hospital, without laborious
work by a whole team of computer experts.
By 2013, new federal healthcare laws are expected to make it easier
for the public to track a doctor's payments from multiple companies;
however, there may be controversial business opportunities available
in the setting up and running of these supposedly transparent
websites, such as
PharmaShine, which was founded
auspiciously by a former attorney for Merck.
Critics are complaining about the extreme conflicts of interest that
arise from all the gift giving and promotional items, saying
doctor's can negatively influence the cost of medicine by
recommending or prescribing brand name drugs over
cheaper generics. In many
instances, the reward is substantial for doctors to do exactly that.
Over 380 doctors have earned more than
$100,000 from drug companies in just the past two years.
But there is also a flip side to these perks. One doctor said he had
to follow a slide show presentation word for word in order to
receive funding for a speaking engagement promoting certain
pharmaceuticals, or there would be changes made to his contract.
On top of all the other problems inherent in proper ethics and
disclosure, many prominent doctors at academic medical centers have
failed to disclose millions of dollars in drug company payments, and
Federal prosecutors say some payments are really kickbacks for
illegal or excessive prescribing.
Are doctors now moonlighting as drug
salesmen in order to keep the perks flowing?