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Updated on August 1, 2014

How Doctors Relate to Drug Companies

In the relationships between doctors and drug makers, there are high possibilities of the doctors developing divided loyalties. The basic interests of the medical practitioners include their patients' welfare, the welfare of the community in which they serve, grants for their research and advancement in their careers. The drug makers on the other hand are primarily interested in commercial outcomes. Therein lays the conflict of interest: for the former, the primary point of concern is the patient whereas for the latter, it is the shareholder.

Health Care Ethics

The relationships are ethically justifiable from one point of view as they bolster cooperative efforts in the goal of reaching quality creation and use of medicines. Pharmaceutical industries provide the much needed funding for medical research and develop drugs in large quantities that are indeed expensive. For example, the industry provides a huge portion of the cost of development of a new drug, which is between US$300 and $600 million.

As stated, the main objective of the pharmaceutical companies is sales. They thus promote and market their drugs. This is majorly by advertising and, the point of concern, giving of gifts and provision of support for activities related to medicine such as travel to meetings.

How Pharmaceutical Companies alter Doctor Prescriptions

The gift giving, drug lunches for doctors, promotional items, books are promotion strategies the industries use for their drugs. The industries utilize the fact that doctors who meet with their representatives are have higher chances of including the particular industries' products in their respective hospital formula. These pushes by the companies also alter the prescribing nature of the doctors.

For example, it is more likely for a doctor who accepts money for traveling to a symposium to give prescription of company-sponsored after obtaining such a sponsorship than before. This is regardless of whether he/she had formally believed that prescription patterns were not affectable. From a different perspective, thus, they are ethically unjustified for their basis is on acceptance by doctors of things such as lavish gifts and money for expenses in entertainment.

A gift is never just a gift.

Health Care Ethics and the Relationship between Doctors and Patients

Doctor-patient relationship bases on trust and the fact that the physician should only act in the patient’s best interest. When an external influence as such alters the doctor's actions, it only serves to violate this important principle. It is important to note that doctors should not personally benefit from payment of drugs by patients.

One fact is undeniable: Drug makers would not spend huge funds on physicians if it did not serve to increase the sale of marketed products. Acceptance of money from the pharmaceutical industries is associated with submitting requests to add drugs manufactured by the industries into hospital formularies.

Drug Companies and Efficient Medical Practice

Physicians point out that their practice bases on knowledge and evidence. This is true. However, there are influences on therapeutic decisions caused by advertisements and information obtained on avenues such as the internet. Despite it being factual that advertisements carry bias towards a product, doctors exposed to such are likelier to accept the commercial rather than well-established scientific views.

Drug promotion on the internet by drug makers should only rely on data that is well founded and this will go a long way in reassuring patients of independence of doctors and ensure an unbiased evidence assessment.

Doctors and parties in the drug making industry serve interests that at times overlap and conflict. Associations between the pharmaceutical industry and the medical practitioners have effect on doctors when it comes to making of clinical decisions and how they conduct research. These associations should be carefully made as they risk compromising the doctor-patient relationships and the overall research integrity. As such, the relationships and the principles they are based on should be open and transparent.

Benefits from the drug-makers should leave doctor’s independence of analysis and judgment unaltered. Scientific and ethical, rather than commercial, values should guide their research and publication.


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