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U.S. SURVEY: Doctors Still Too Tight With Drug Makers

A 2009 survey of 1,900 U.S. primary care physicians found that a majority of doctors—84 percent—maintain relationships with drug makers and their reps.

A research team from Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital discovered that, while the percentage was down by 10 percent compared to findings from a 2004 survey, doctors are still too tight with drug makers.

But the blame doesn’t necessarily fall completely on the M.D.s. Though most think they can’t be swayed by free lunches, paid training trips and free drug samples, simple psychology says otherwise.

“About two thirds accepted drug samples, 70 percent accepted food or beverages from drug companies and 14 percent accepted payment in exchange for their professional services,” according to a Reuters report.

If handing out free stuff didn’t help the drug companies make lucrative friends, they would immediately stop wasting their money. But it’s a tactic that has obviously paid off in the past and continues to pay off now.

Since the earlier 2004 study came out, different groups from different sides have pushed for reforms and guidelines to limit the influence drug companies have over doctors. According to Eric Campbell, lead researcher for the 2009 study, these changes have resulted in a “significant decline overall” in doctor-drug rep relationships.

However, that “significant decline” only amounts to doctors reporting that they now have only two meetings per month with drug company reps, on average, compared to three a month in 2004. Is one less meeting really going to have an impact? Is that really a “significant” improvement?

What are your thoughts? Are these potentially harmful relationships that should be monitored? Or since other industries use freebies to influence potential business partners, is the drug industry being unfairly targeted for sales strategies that are widely used in other industries?



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