How drug companies attempt to influence your family doctor


Here’s a good article about how the education of family doctors is often taken care of by drug companies:

The Star: Drug Companies Wine and Dine Family Physicians

Not that any family doctor wants or expects to become corrupted. But don’t be surprised when you’re offered a life-long prescription of dubious benefit after a 5-minute consultation with your doctor. It’s just how the system works. Advertising works.

I’ve been to many, many of these lunches and dinners myself during the last 16 years. Eventually they started to leave such a foul taste in my mouth that I stopped going. Except for once in a while to study the method and the shameless bias.

I feel that drug companies should not be allowed to do any sort of “education” of doctors, ever. It’s seriously less like education and more like brainwashing. Doctors who can’t see it are doubly deceived, unfortunately.


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  1. eric
    This is an important topic. I'm glad you brought it up. Most doctors feel (like I once did) that industry funded "education" is innocuous. As doctors, we feel we are too smart to be conned by Pharma marketing. But their tactics must be working or else they wouldn't spend so lavishly on on fancy dinners and shmoozing. The sales people recruit local respected doctors to act as Key Opinion Leaders. So if the great Dr. so-and-so likes Drug X, Drug X must be good. Right? The industry says it doesn't dictate the content of the speeches to it's speakers. They are free to speak their minds. Perhaps that's true. But, the speaker knows that they won't be asked to speak again should they say something disparaging against the sponsored product.
  2. Janknitz
    My daughter will be applying to medical schools this spring. Meanwhile she has been "shadowing" doctors to get a chance to observe doctors "in their native habitat". One GP she shadows has his office manager coordinate all the drug rep visits so that there are always pastries for the entire staff in the morning, and lunches are brought in daily (usually carb-filled pizza and sandwiches). She is mightily impressed by the fact that this doctor gets all this "free food" for his staff EVERY DAY. He tells her that he sees about 50 drug reps monthly! I hope that she is taking my responses to heart--I explain to her that they give this "free food" in order to pressure the doctor into prescribing their drugs, and it usually works. We have had some good discussions about looking at lifestyle causes before turning to prescription medications, but I suspect my input will not stand against the tide of a medical education where young physicians are taught to diagnose and drug. When my sister-in-law was in medical school, she was showered with "free" gifts from drug companies--logo bearing fancy stethoscopes, pen lights, otoscopes, and more. I am very sad for the state of medical education she will be entering into. I can only hope she can see through all this baloney.
    Reply: #4
  3. Mihir
    FYI, if you want to see how much your doctor is taking in from drug companies, these sites are quite useful:

  4. Apicius
    Janknitz, wow! Imagine if instead of the doctor wasting his time with bullshit sales reps, he could instead attend to patients who need medical attention.
  5. Apicius
    Thank goodness medical doctors do not design and build airplanes. They would drop out of the sky. Companies like Boeing and Airbus typically have strict supply chain and vendor management rules, so that engineers and others with decision making authority do not get persuaded by a plate of donuts. Too bad the medical industry doesn't have their act in order like other engineer-driven industries.
  6. Alan
    This is a problem, but it it the tip of the iceberg; read this book:
    by Peter Gotzsche, a former industry employee, MD, and the director of the Nordic Cochrane Reviews. The system is far worse than you can imagine.
  7. chris c
    Not just the doctors but the policymakers, and all health "charities". Oh and especially dieticians. Our GPs are effectively paid bribes to prescribe statins. They may face disciplinary action for not following The Rules. Some have been struck off for prescribing T3 or Armour because The Rules say only thyroxine must be used. Some have been threatened with disciplinary action for encouraging low carb diets or prescribing test strips to Type 2 diabetics.
  8. Mary, The Diabetes Lady
    Marcia Angell, M.D. is the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. She spent 25 years at NEJM. Her book, "The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What To Do About It." She was in the trenches. She knows first hand how Big Pharma manipulates physicians and patients to use their drugs whether they need those drugs or not i.e, statins. From ghostwriting of articles for the journal by Big Pharma staff and then paying a doctor to sign his/her name to the article to dinners, gifts, trips, etc. lavished upon physicians, Marcia Angell tells it all. It's an eye opening book - a real page turner.

    I would also recommend: "On The Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health by Jerome P. Kassirer, M.D. Another former editor of NEJM, Dr. Kassirer opens the door to the corruption in the health care business today. The conflicts of interest are rampant and the unsuspecting patient goes into his/her doctors office fully believing that their doctor has only the patient's best interest at heart. That is not always true. That is why my mantra is: "Question Everything!!"

    I offer one more suggestion in this genre of books: Dr. John Abramson's book, " Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine."

    It amazes me that these brave physicians have come out against there own profession to let people know how terrible broken medicine is and yet nothing and I mean nothing gets changed. Dr. Angell testified before a Congressional committee and nothing changed. It is disheartening to say the least and downright dangerous.

    My husband has type 2 diabetes. He suffered for over 25 years with the effects of that so-called disease. He saw his doctors faithfully, took his medications and tried to lose weight. In 2002 he was on 45 units of insulin, metformin, Neurotin for painful severe neuropathy in his feet that limited his walking to 75 ft. He was on diuretics, statins, and other anti-hyperglycemic drugs. His weight ballooned to 280 pounds. He was miserable! and so was I.

    I found Dr. Berstein's book and reading it was like a gift from heaven. I knew immediately after the first few pages that I had found the answer to my husband's recovery. That set me on a path of research and study about diabetes. I developed a program from all that books I read and in 2003 my husband began my program. Within 3 months my husband was completely off insulin. In 9 months he lost 80 pounds and shortly thereafter he lost another 20 pounds for a total weight loss of 100 pounds and he has never looked back. Within one year, 2004, he walked in two 5K races and finished. He is off of insulin, off of statins, off of diuretics, off of pain medication. He went from eating an abundance of carbs to eating 5 servings of carbs a day (75 grams). His energy levels went through the roof! He is back to being the man I married in 1960.

    I share what we've learned through my "How We Beat Diabetes" classes. I feel so blessed to have found the answers to all the questions that I share with I've learned over these last 13 years with as many people as possible. The results have been nothing short of amazing. My goal in these classes are to empower patients so that they become a proactive partner with their doctor in their own healthcare.

    For photos of my husband, before and after please check out I tell everyone about Dr. Bernstein's book, Diabetes Solution and how that book started me on my quest. Dr. B's book is number one on my list of Recommend Reading. He is my hero! I also refer them to Diet Doctor web site. I loved the Diet Doctor's post in 2014 about the diabetes conference he attended that served a lunch of a banana, chips, a Twix candy bar and water! That blew me away!! Then I went to a diabetes conference here in Cleveland OH co-sponsored by the ADA. They served a "light breakfast" of bagels, doughnuts, cereal, fruit and of all things a huge unlimited supply of orange juice!!! Am I nuts? or are they?

  9. Dr. John Williams
    I'm an MD (GI) and have a good friend of mine that is a pharma rep-- pharma sales are one of the most regulated industries out there-- now. They can't as much as leave a pencil in my office with their logo on it, not my rule but pharma guidelines. Also, how do my colleagues get info on the latest drugs, or new indications of current meds?
    Journals? CME? Perhaps some but this doesn't scratch the surface of what is needed to stay on top of changes in medicine. I'm thankful for the reps that call on my practice, and patients are uneducated about their role-- for instance, pharmaceuticals only make up less then 10% of total health care costs in the US. Speak out about hospital costs or managed care after you do some research. Just sticking up for a friend of mine that is in pharma, and believed I was qualified to chime in.

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