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A Doctor’s Take on Big Pharma and Patient Care

Yesterday, the Memphis Commercial Appeal published an Op-Ed by Dr. Manoj Jain about the influence pharmaceutical companies have over doctors and the drugs they prescribe their patients. Jain writes about how he found friends and mentors in our Dollars for Docs database and how some were surprised by the amounts of money doctors had taken from pharma and how one physician became defensive in talking about the fees they had accepted.

“I tried to convince myself that the trip and other perks I’d gotten before from drug companies, such as free tickets to Tigers' basketball games, did not influence my prescribing practices,” writes Jain. “Such rationalization is probably common. A 2000 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the more gifts doctors received, the less likely they were to think that their prescribing behavior was being influenced. Talks given by speakers paid by a drug company can in fact serve a valuable purpose. When I attend such events, I learn about new medications that can save my patients' lives. ... But I still have an uncomfortable feeling about my frequent encounters with sales representatives for the drug companies.”

Jain hit his breaking point after a visit from a drug rep who pressured him to use a particular HIV medicine and who seemed to know what drugs he had been prescribing his patients. Jain believes, “The drug industry's relationship with doctors needs transparency, regulation, enforcement and professionalism. Transparency can be achieved by such measures as ProPublica's list and the AMSA scorecard. ... We also need regulations and enforcement to bar doctors from taking excessive and inappropriate gifts and speaker fees.”

ProPublica will have a major update to the Dollars for Docs database later this summer, so stay tuned.

Mike Webb

Mike Webb was the vice president/communications of ProPublica. He is a veteran communications specialist with experience in public relations, marketing, sales and campaign work at media companies, think tanks, political organizations and in the entertainment business.

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