Monday, April 28, 2008

Banning Pharmaceutical Companies from Medical Schools

A report recommends that the nation's medical schools ban doctors, students, and staff from accepting gifts from pharmaceutical companies.

Well it's about time. Although surveys routinely indicate that doctors believe that cannot be influenced by these small tokens and gifts, in fact, the change in behavior is quite subtle. In the same surveys, doctors feel that their colleagues are more likely to be influenced by pharmaceutical marketing than they are. As a result of these practices, doctors prescribe the newest therapy, not necessarily the most proven or most effective (note the prescribing of VYTORIN, a combination cholesterol lowering medication never proven to decrease heart attack risk). The free medication samples dropped off by a pharmaceutical representative typically go to those who have health insurance, not those who have a true need despite what we tell ourselves.

Let's get real. For patients to trust their doctors, we need to be unbiased and separate any appearance of impropriety that would violate that trust. Patients are already confused with the myriad of information and advertisements about medical therapy. They need someone who can look out for their best interest. That is our role as doctors. If this policy is adapted by the 129 medical schools, which it is expected, then perhaps the next generation of doctors will do the right thing and not get distracted or fooled by small gifts that have clouded their colleagues' professional judgment.

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