The public thinks so, according to a new survey. The Consumers Report health blog writes that:
"More than two thirds, or 69 percent, of consumers surveyed said they think drugmakers have too much influence on doctors' decisions about which drug to prescribe. Half of those polled said they feel doctors are too eager to prescribe a drug rather than consider alternate methods of managing a condition. And 47 percent said they think gifts from pharma companies influence doctors to prescribe certain drugs, with 41 percent saying they think doctors tend to prescribe newer, more expensive drugs.”
The medical profession has taken steps to reduce financial practices that influence physicians' prescribing practices. A new voluntary code by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) has won praise in some circles including from the American College of Physicians.
Some purists would completely sever the link between physicians and pharmaceutical promotions, including banning any industry support for continuing medical education. I wonder, though, if an outright ban would have unintended adverse effects on patients. For instance, as this commentary points out, without pharmaceutical grant support, CME programs would likely have to charge higher registration fees to cover their costs, which likely could cause some physicians to forgo CME altogether, and reduced external funding could adversely affect the quality of CME.
Discussions of a ban on all drug company support for CME must address the competing public good of ensuring the availability of high quality and affordable CME and reducing undue industry influence over physicians. In my mind, the CMSS code strikes the right balance.
Today's questions: Do you think drug companies have too much influence over physician prescribing? Do current voluntary codes, like CMSS', go far enough?