Disclosure of the Deals Between Doctors and the Drug Companies

    It's been a long time coming but soon the US government will force drug companies to reveal the various payments they make to doctors for various 'services' including research, consulting, speaking, travel and entertainment.

    This article in the New York Times explains this new health care law in more detail...a standard that will no doubt see better decisions made by doctors where only the best interests of their patients will be considered...not whether the doctor’s luxury SUV should be black or silver.

    I’m sorry for sounding a bit cynical but I truly believe that when a medical practitioner takes the Hippocratic Oath, he/she dedicates themselves to practice medicine ethically. The following excerpt from the article highlights the bad apples that apparently lurk in the medical fraternity:

    “Large numbers of doctors receive payments from drug and device companies every year - sometimes into the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars - in exchange for providing advice and giving lectures. Analyses by The New York Times and others have found that about a quarter of doctors take cash payments from drug or device makers and that nearly two-thirds accept routine gifts of food, including lunch for staff members and dinner for themselves. The Times has found that doctors who take money from drug makers often practice medicine differently from those who do not and that they are more willing to prescribe drugs in risky and unapproved ways, such as prescribing powerful antipsychotic medicines for children.”

    Under the new law, drug companies must disclose all payments made to doctors...regardless of whether the payment is for the promotion of new products or if a sales rep from a drug company brings lunch to a doctor’s office for a 'meeting'.

    All the disclosed data will then be put on a web site for the public to see. Those drug companies who fail to report their payments will be heavily fined, with the top senior executives being held liable for the accuracy of each payment report.

    Patients deserve to know whether the advice they’re getting from their doctor is based on actual medical fact or financial favors and other monetary benefits.

    As expected, some people in the medical fraternity are opposed to the new bill. According to his article on the Wall Street Journal website, Dr Thomas P. Stossel, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, the new law is “a stimulus plan for critics of the pharmaceutical and medical-device industries.”

    Here’s what Dr Stossel thinks of the new law:

    “There will be the questions of how to identify which physicians are being paid for what - such as how to account for $25 worth of bagels brought into a group-practice office when it's unclear who actually ate the bagels. Who doesn't care? Consumers. Few patients have the time, interest or competence to interpret the disclosures. Even if they did, most survey data indicate that patients have few concerns about physicians' industry relationships.”

    You can read both sides of the argument by clicking on the two links above...they certainly make for interesting reading.

    What do you think?

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