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Doctors Being Less Influenced by Pharmaceutical Companies


Financial relationships with drug companies are beginning to become less according to a national survey conducted by Boston researchers, however, 8 out of 10 practicing physicians still accepted free drug samples, gifts, or payments from industry for their services in 2009. This comes amid mounting concerns over the potential for conflicts of interest in medical practice.

Though the report shows a decline, there continues to be arrangements between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry. In fact 84 percent of physicians reported some type of tie with drug companies in 2009, compared with 94 percent in 2004. Though this is lower, consumers must realize that 84% of doctors are influenced with these big pharmaceutical companies.

Drug and device makers spend millions of dollars each year to develop relationships with doctors who then might decide to use or recommend their products. Medical professionals “delude themselves that it doesn’t matter,” said Eric G. Campbell, the study’s lead author. The results "may be signaling the slow death of the primary marketing model for drug companies, which is paying doctors to influence their behavior," said Campbell.

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"As more physicians move out of mom-and-pop shops and into larger institutional settings, expect to see this trend continue," said Dr. John Santa, director of the health ratings center for Consumer Reports.

Among specialties that are influenced, cardiologists were most likely to have any kind of relationship with drug companies (92.8 percent) and psychiatrists the least likely (79.8 percent). Private physicians, who don’t have any regulations imposed on them, are more likely to accept handouts, the researchers found. More than 90 percent reported taking gifts or money from industry, compared with 72 percent for doctors working for a university and 71 percent for hospital physicians, according to the survey.

Doctors with industry relationships tend to prescribe brand-name drugs at a higher rate than those without these ties, the study found. The relationships may lead to higher health costs. “The Institute of Medicine has come out strongly against speakers bureaus and medical schools are banning these things,” Campbell said. “I think in the end there’s a dawning belief that academic physicians should not be part-time drug salesmen.”

The survey also found a link between industry relationships and prescribing patterns. Doctors who said they had industry ties were more likely to say they prescribed brand-name medications when generic alternatives were available. In both years the surveys contacted about 3,000 doctors, two-thirds of whom responded.

Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, an outspoken critic of doctor-drug industry relationships who was not involved in the study, told The Associated Press the survey results are "really good news."