Conflict of Interest between Drug Companies and Doctors

Where and how do doctors decide what drugs to prescribe? From drug company representatives of course. They haunt offices of physicians offering bribes in various forms. This is blatant conflict of interest.

Pills in hand

Photo © 2004 Mark Csabai.

PILLS, PILLS and MORE PILLS

We are fortunate to live in a time having medications that alleviate uncomfortable, even life threatening symptoms of physical and mental disease.

Yet, traditional medicine in the developed countries continue to use only two primary methods to treat patients complaints; medication, generally in the form of pills, and surgery.

When you visit your doctor and have a symptom, you get a pill, a second symptom, another pill, a third symptom still another pill with little regard for the drug interactions, neutralization of the efficacy or increased effects that one drug may have on another.

Take a woman in her sixties who has high blood pressure, headaches, and fatigue and is overweight. She will be given a pill to lower her blood pressure, another to regulate her cholesterol, another to increase her energy and yet another for her headaches, possibly another to regulate her weight. Five medications. She may get short-term relief but faces potential long-term ramifications, including possible life threatening side effects and complications.

Where and how do doctors decide what drugs to prescribe? From drug company representatives of course. They haunt offices of physicians offering bribes in the form of candy for the office staff for "just a minute to talk to the doctor," to free samples, inscribed pens, to lavish gifts including cherished tickets to college and professional sports games, trips and dinners in fancy restaurants. In fact a whopping 30 % of the marketing budgets of pharmaceutical companies is used to "educate " physicians and lure them into writing prescriptions for their latest banner drug. Other obvious methods of drug use seduction are television and print media ads to encourage people to request a specific medication from their doctors.

This is blatant conflict of interest.

I have personally been prescribed Vioxx, Permex, Advandia and female hormones when generic and /or cheaper alternatives were/are available. I am 74 years old and I have Type 11 diabetes with a family history of heart disease, yet the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) either warned or removed all of these drugs from the market due to the danger of causing heart attacks and strokes. What was my doctor thinking of when he put me on these drugs? Or was his decision motivated by propaganda by some drug salesman?

These designer, non-generic drugs are very expensive for both the Medicare Advantage program (ultimately the tax-payer), my insurance company, and for me with an expensive co-pay, when they paid at all. I live on a fixed income and paying of expensive drugs creates a financial hardship for me. Additionally they put me in life threatening danger of an early death.

The FDA as the alleged watchdog on drug safety is not doing its job. They are just another front for unscrupulous drug companies who value profit more than developing drugs that can save lives. They claim to be understaffed.

Take Advandia for example, it is prescribed to over 1 million Americans for treatment of Type 11 Diabetes. In an analysis by Steven Nisson, M.D. of the Cleveland Clinic and former president of the American College of Cardiology reported in the New England Journal of Medicine on May 21, 2007 that his analysis of 42 clinical trials suggest that the drug could cause a 43% increase in heart attack risk. Yet doctors continue to prescribe it for their patients.

Drugs are often tested by pharmaceutical companies on 25-year-old medical students who are paid to be guinea pigs, and then after approved by the FDA prescribed for 65-year-old woman or 75-year- old man who have different body weights, blood pressures, and other medical problems.

The drug testers have a lot to lose by reporting any side effects, namely that they may be excluded from the current test or future tests and thus lose the money they are paid. So even when they experience side effects they don't report them. Even so-called double blind studies have problems in credibility for the reasons outlined above.

Congress must be more pro-active in: Overseeing the role of the FDA, regulating the conflict of interest between drug companies and physicians, price controls.

This is a serious issue for America and must be addressed immediately.

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Based on the book How To Talk To Your Doctor by Nancy O'Connor Ph.D. Dr. O'Connor is a retired Psychologist and former nurse. Available at www.lamariposapress.com, Amazon.com and Barnes and Nobel.com.

Copyright © 2007 Nancy O'Connor