Lawmakers can’t take gifts, so why should doctors?
The drug industry spends big bucks every year lavishing doctors with free samples and other goodies. Does that influence how they prescribe drugs? Most physicians say no. But the American Medical Student Association argues that, at the very least, the freebies raise questions about how much influence the drug firms have. The group, meeting in Chicago this week, favors a ban on all industry marketing to doctors. […]
The group’s ban goes much further than the guidelines of the leading doctors’ group, the American Medical Association. The AMA believes doctors can accept “modest” meals and gifts related to their work that cost about $100. Doctors may also accept “reasonable” speakers’ fees. They may not accept cash, junkets and any gifts with strings attached.
The student group, which represents about two-thirds of the nation’s medical students, doesn’t think doctors should accept any promotional gifts or speakers’ fees. It believes hospitals should discontinue industry-funded lectures and lunches. It argues the huge marketing expenses drive up the cost of drugs. Finally, it thinks doctors should get information about drugs from independent sources and not rely on drug sales representatives. […]
According to an article in the April issue of Atlantic Monthly, doctors who insist that they are not influenced by goodies from drug reps are contradicted by studies that show just the opposite — that they are more likely to prescribe a gift-giver’s drug. And it cites one study that found that the more gifts a doctors gets, the more likely he or she will believe that gifts have no effect.
I knew some legislators like that. They’re gone now, thankfully. [emphasis added]