Friday, March 07, 2014

A Little Bit Of Good News

(Cartoon by Randy Glasbergen.  Click on image to enlarge.)

It's been a while since I've checked to see what the drug companies are up to, especially with respect to their "bribing" doctors to prescribe their drugs.  As I've pointed out in previous posts, drug companies would pay doctors to speak at special conferences in exotic locations or take the doctors and staff out to expensive lunches or give doctors and their staffs expensive gifts. I'm not saying that all doctors prescribed medications unnecessarily, or even prescribed newer, more expensive drugs when the old drugs worked just as well.  But if these marketing techniques hadn't been successful, the drug companies wouldn't have done it.

The ethics (or, rather, lack of ethics) behind these gifts were scrutinized pretty closely by news outlets, medical schools, and medical societies.  They all agreed the practice smelled bad.  Well, doctors and the drug companies finally got the message, albeit it took a lot of clamoring by some good guys and some changes in the law to accomplish a pretty major turn-around with respect to the speaking "fees" paid to doctors by the drug companies.

Here's the good news as reported in the Boston Globe:

Some of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies have slashed payments to health professionals for promotional speeches amid heightened public scrutiny of such spending, a ProPublica analysis shows.

Eli Lilly and Co.’s payments to speakers dropped by 55 percent, from $47.9 million in 2011 to $21.6 million in 2012.
Pfizer’s speaking payments fell 62 percent over the same period, from nearly $22 million to $8.3 million.

And Novartis, the largest US drug maker as measured by 2012 sales, spent 40 percent less on speakers that year than it did between October 2010 and September 2011, reducing payments from $24.8 million to $14.8 million.
The sharp declines coincide with increased attention from regulators, academic institutions, and the public to pharmaceutical company marketing practices. ...
In addition, the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, part of the 2010 health care overhaul law, will soon require all pharmaceutical and medical device companies to publicly report payments to physicians. The first disclosures required under the act are expected in September and will cover the period of August to December 2013.  [Emphasis added]

That doesn't solve all the problems with drug company marketing techniques by any means.  For example, I'm seeing more and more television ads for prescription drugs, and I'm sure other media have been deluged with "direct-to-consumer" advertising.  I'll save that post for another day.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy this good news.  Who knows?  Maybe this will give the FDA the spine to look further into drug pricing ... nah... I need to be more realistic.

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Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

But if these marketing techniques hadn't been successful, the drug companies wouldn't have done it.

Exactly! Always follow the money.

3:34 PM  

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