JAMA: Drug Company Perks Change MDs’ Prescription Habits
Physicians who have regular interactions with drug company sales representatives are influenced in their prescribing behavior by the gifts and perks they receive. Today's Journal of the American Medical Association confirms the link with a review of 29 studies published since 1994 Dr. Ashley Wazana of Montreal-based McGill University found that meetings between doctors and drug company representatives correlated with "nonrational" prescribing habits, such as increased requests to add drugs to hospital formularies, increased prescription rates and prescription of more expensive drugs rather than generic equivalents. According to Wazana's calculations, meetings between drug company representatives and physicians typically begin during medical school and subsequently occur on average four times per month, with companies spending between $8,000 and $13,000 per physician in promotions annually.
Physicians Seem Unconcerned
Wazana found that though residents and physicians are skeptical of drug company representatives' motives and biases, they also express a lack of concern about the impact of promotional gifts, complimentary meals and other sponsored events on their behavior (Wazana, 1/19). In a corresponding JAMA commentary, Dr. Robert Tenery of the AMA's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs bemoans the "glaring lack of adequate guidelines" in this area and calls for an industry-wide effort to develop standards to regulate drug companies' interactions with physicians (Tenery, 1/19).