After years of the pharmaceutical industry raking in billions, running rampant with TV ads saying “Ask your doctor about [insert overpriced drug here]” and lavishing money, free trips and gifts on doctors, legislators are finally starting to say: whoa.
In addition to the drug safety reform bill that passed the Senate and is a week away from likely passage in the House, several lawmakers have stated support for establishing a national registry of all pharmaceutical gifts and payments to doctors.
Why do we need to keep track of what freebies doctors are getting? From a NY Times editorial this week:
The drug companies ply doctors with a wide range of gifts, everything from free lunches for busy doctors and their staffs while sales representatives extol the virtues of their latest drugs to subsidized trips to vacation spots for conferences billed as educational events. The companies also pay large sums to doctors for consulting or for conducting research. These payments, which can mount into the hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of years, look suspiciously like inducements to promote or prescribe the companies’ drugs.
And it gets even deeper:
As Gardiner Harris reported in The Times last week, one drug company invited doctors to a weekend training session in Orlando, Fla., to learn how to give marketing lectures to other doctors for an asthma medicine. The enticement was free airfare, a rental car and hotel room, plus a $2,700 stipend.
If all this makes you a little sick, call your representatives and tell them to support legislation to create a registry of all drug company gifts to doctors. In the meantime, visit No Free Lunch for a listing of doctors in your town who have sworn off all pharmaceutical bribes…. oops… I meant gifts.