Thursday, January 1, 2009

Pharma - No More Doctor Muggings

Word is out. Beginning today, January 1, 2009, drug makers will voluntarily no longer give doctors mugs emblazoned with company logos as free gifts.
Presumably, these mugs – and all those other ill-given, assorted, and mind-swaying goodies - pens and lectures and consulting fees and free lunches and periodic pizzas for the doctors’ staff and tickets to sporting events and free drug samples and pharma-sponsored continuing medical education sessions and tete a tete meetings with drug reps armed with computer rundown of doctor prescribing patterns and psychological tricks of the marketing trade– unduly influence, seduce, bribe, hook, and addict gullible, intellectual vulnerable doctors into mindlessly prescribing brand name medications instead of generic drugs.

I say this with my tongue firmly tucked into my check, but if you doubt the power and import of what I say, consider the titles of these articles published in the waning days of 2008.

• “No More Free Lunches,”

• “No Mug? Drug Makers Cut Out Goodies for Doctors,” New York Times

• “Sun Sets on Drug Company Pens in Doctors’ Offices,” WSJ Health Blog

• “Harvard Psychiatrist Biederman Stops Industry Funded Work.” WSJ Health Blog

• “Emory Punishes Psychiatrist Nemeroff for Drug Company Ties, “

• “Drug Companies Voluntarily Cut Swag to Doctors,” Seattle Times

The message for those of us who wish for the best, ethical and perhaps even pontifical, is that health reform for 2009 is off to a good start.

Two of the biggest targets for health reform jurors are those excessively profitable drug makers and health insurers. If we can only strip those two wealthy goliaths of their marketing tools, and shame them into voluntarily adopting proper and binding ethical rules and saving consumers money, perhaps we can cut the cost, restore evidence-based care, and reduce the unseemly capitalistic rewards of-profit-making , assumed to be gained improperly and resulting in the piling up of monetory hoards.

In any event, henceforth we shall have no more doctor muggings. Instead, we may have only more television drug pluggings.

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