John Henning Schumann is an internal medicine doctor and serves as president of the University of Oklahoma’s Tulsa campus. He recently wrote an article entitled “Those TV Drug Ads Distract Us From The Medical Care We Need“. Although he has some valid points he fails to recognize that patients want to control conversations around what they perceive is THEIR healthcare.
According to Dr Schumann “all too often, commercials give us the idea that something might be wrong with us. Big budget ads have driven the promotion of new disease entities. When pharmaceutical firms get FDA approval for a new indication, they can relentlessly market the product and create a torrent of demand where none previously existed.”
None previously existed? To be fair, there are some products that are trying to create new diseases. Chronic dry eyes are a great example, but what Dr Schumann is missing that in most cases, patients have done their research online and feel that, for them, it’s an issue. Lipitor became a billion dollar drug by talking about cholesterol and rather than telling patients to “watch what they eat” doctors too often just found it easier to write an Rx for a statin.
He then goes on to say “and those helpful conversations I mentioned aren’t always so helpful if they wind up hijacking time in our brief encounter. I’d like to discuss what’s most relevant and beneficial to your health. If I have to spend my time fending off marketing for a condition you don’t have or a drug that’s of no possible benefit to you, our time hasn’t been used productively.” Again he fails to understand that it’s OUR time and we will discuss what we want to discuss. If you want to discuss other things don’t go from room-to-room and treat us like we are intruding on your time.
Dr Schumann does have one valid point “If I do wind up prescribing it, more often than not it won’t be “preferred” by your insurance. Then it’s down the prior-authorization rabbit hole, which can require multiple calls from the doctor’s office to the insurer, begging for coverage. If you want to see smoke come out of a doctor’s ears, just ask about THAT process.” This is a serious problem and it’s getting worse. Pharma could help by listing insurance companies that accept their product, but that would be too logical.
Doctors are going to have to accept the fact that patients are getting to be cranky consumers when it comes to their healthcare. The era of following blindly what doctors tell us is coming to a close. It’s OUR money, we’re paying more for healthcare and we want to be treated like people, which means WE want to be heard.