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    Stop suggesting physicians are ‘bought’ through pharma gifts

    Every few months, another study is released with the same general theme: Gifts from pharmaceutical companies compel docs to prescribe more costly drugs.


    RELATED READING: States move to prioritize primary care


    Last June, it was JAMA Internal Medicine suggesting that a single meal swayed doctors’ prescribing habits. Now, a review of Washington, D.C.-based physicians is again painting the entire profession in a bad light.

    In a study published in the journal PLOS One, 2,873 Medicare Part D prescribers in the nation’s capital were analyzed based on their prescribing habits. The study found that 39% of the docs received gifts from pharmaceutical representatives in 2013—ranging from meals to ownership interest in products. 

    These physicians wrote 2.3 more prescriptions per patient claim, prescribed $450 more in medications  per claim and prescribed 7.8% more branded drugs compared with those who did not receive a gift. The study also cited internal medicine and family medicine as two of the specialties most associated with significantly increased average cost of prescription claims.

    And, thanks to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Open Payment Program, information about monetary gifts to physicians is now available to the public. I’ve written before how seeing a dollar amount next to a physician’s name without context is a dangerous practice, and this study is a key example of that shortcoming.


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    Yes, pharma pays docs to speak on various issues. Yes, pharma reps take physicians and their staff to lunch or bring lunch into the practice to get in front of healthcare professionals. And yes, representatives pay for physician feedback on products. 

    Next: This type of talk is "disingenuous"

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    • [email protected]
      Keith, right on with your comments; I have been in full private practice for 37 years at the same location; we have excellent communication with our pharmaceutical reps and yes, at times they offer lunches; this affords us the time to sit, learn, and listen to new products, services, and devices which may be useful in my practice.; some of my colleagues who are "owned" by insurance companies and hospitals are forbidden to visit with reps; often, they fall far behind in new and innovative product education updates; NEVER AND I MEAN NEVER have I been pressured,coerced,or offered any form of payment or felt indebted for visiting with our reps; reps are polite hard working individuals who are finding their jobs more and more difficult and scarce; our honor is impugned and our integrity is trashed with this kind of talk, even from our very own, so sad; If there is a case of "money to right my drug", then reprimand the doctor and pharma rep and make it public, but leave the rest of us good doctors alone! Why not look at the politicians and lobbyists and the millions given to them in the "pay for play" nasty Washington games, the downright "buy yourself a politician" schemes that run rampant; over 11,000 lobbyists daily influencing less than 600 senators, congressmen, judges, and executives who people engineer our lives; despicable, have a great Thanksgiving; [email protected]

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