COLLECTIVE BARGAINING II: Doctors Boycott Merck
In a "bitter fight" over the collective bargaining rights of health professionals, hundreds of physicians nationwide have boycotted drug products made by Merck & Company, one the world's largest drug manufacturers, the New York Times reports. The Federation of Physicians and Dentists called for the ban several weeks ago to "punish Merck" for its opposition to pending legislation in Congress that would allow doctors to collectively bargain with health plans. Doctors maintain that the boycott "would not harm patients" and could "eventually lead to improvements" in health care. According to John Seddon, executive director of the federation, "doctors are just simply not prescribing Merck products," but they "can feel comfortable boycotting a product as long as they know substitutes are available." Critics argue, however, that the ban "showed that some doctors had allowed political considerations to outweigh the best interests of patients." While the boycott has achieved some results, doctors want Merck to offer a public retraction by running ads and sending letters to members of Congress. "If Merck refuses, remember this above all else: Reward your friends and punish your enemies," the federation said in a May 4 national notice to doctors. One Merck official said that the boycott "scared our sales force to death," and some company employees admitted the ban produced a "noticeable effect" on sales. Merck attempted to appease physicians by distancing itself from a coalition -- which includes Aetna U.S. Healthcare, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, the Cigna Corporation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- that opposes the bill. Neither House of Congress has voted on the measure (Pear, 5/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.