KEY TAKEAWAY: Doctors do not prescribe more branded drugs because of a “free dinner”. It’s because that, while at dinner, they are exposed to peer to peer presentations that increase their knowledge and help them better understand a drug’s benefit in patients.
One key finding has remained constant in all the research around DTC marketing and patients: the doctor is the gatekeeper when it comes to recommending healthcare treatments. Patients trust their doctors to prescribe the right medication(s) when they have a health problem. Now, according to research in JAMA, we’re supposed to believe that doctors are so beholding to drug companies, for free dinners, that they will say thank you by writing branded medications?
First, let’s be clear about something; doctors are entitled to be compensated for their time whether it’s at a pharma sponsored meal or an advisory board. I have worked with and continue to work with a number of doctors in various specialties and I have never met a single one that would prescribe a branded drug because they were treated to a meal or their staff received pizza’s from a drug rep.
There are, however, some questionable aspects of physicians getting compensated by pharma and medical device companies. If you look at the top doctors who receive payments, there is a direct correlation in doctors who receive payments from medical device companies and their use of these medical devices in their practice. Orthopedic surgeons who receive payments from medical device companies are very quick to recommend surgery to their patients. That, to me, is a major concern.
In pharma thought leaders who receive six figure payments from pharma often become key advocates for that company’s drug. Is it because they believe in the product or is it because they are receiving a fat check? That is something that requires more study.
I have attended many pharma physician dinners and the information presented is not really promotional, it’s data and doctors talking to doctors. There are often questions about prescribing to certain groups of patients and how to best manage certain health issues. The JAMA study is flawed, but in this age of people only reading the headlines very few are actually going to ask the questions that need to be asked.