The Evil That Drug Marketers Do
July 13, 2006
The practice of drug companies giving gifts, pricey vacations, "consulting" agreements that involve little work, and other freebies to doctors has gained increasing scrutiny and disapproval in the public's eye.
Another similar practice, which is conducted quietly and has not gained much attention, but is growing in popularity, involves non-profit charities. Private-practice doctors across the nation have set up such charities, which then receive major donations -- to the tune of millions of dollars a year -- from drug companies and medical device makers.
The charities typically conduct medical research or education, and the doctors behind them promote them as being legitimate. However, concern is rising that the drug company payments to the tax-exempt organizations:
- Bias treatment decisions of physicians
- Lead to suspect research findings
- Risk violating anti-kickback laws
- Provide a forum for conflict of interest and misuse of funds
The charities are also closely linked to the doctors' for-profit medical groups, which typically use the products and devices made by the drug companies funding them.
Meanwhile, a column by Dr. Jay Cohen explains how drug companies carefully select and mangle data in a "medication-friendly" way to present to doctors at drug seminars and via drug representatives. Because the drug industry spends billions to influence what doctors see, read and hear -- and doctors make decisions based on this information -- it persuades doctors to prescribe more drugs.