Pharmaceutical companies want the attention of physicians. And
to get it, they offer a range of enticements: meals, pens and
notepads, trips, consulting fees, drug samples.
When questioned about this, physicians typically deny that a
mere lunch could persuade them to prescribe a certain drug. But the
scientific evidence by and large does not support that
Physicians receiving gifts from drug companies are more likely
to prescribe the products of the gift-givers, or to ask that that
company's drugs be added to their hospital's formulary. Physicians
with access to free samples are less likely than those without
access to use alternatives that are cheaper or generic.
The loser in all of this: the patient.
The drug company-to-physician pipeline has come in for lots of
criticism in the past few years. Many states and the federal
government have passed laws prohibiting or limiting gifts, and/or
requiring disclosure. Professional medical organizations have taken
positions against members accepting gifts.
And yet when a group of physicians were asked in 2009 if they
accepted gifts of any sort from drug companies, those answering
"yes" came to 84% of the total.