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Prescription drug abuse rates are rapidly increasing in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. makes up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it is responsible for the consumption of 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs. Abuse of prescription drugs occurs who the drug is taken in a manner other than its intended purpose such as to get high.

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08-18 Physicians and pharma: Tussle between ethics and financial gain

Posted in addiction, Opioid addiction, Prescription drug abuse by Rachael - 0 Comments
Physicians and pharma: Tussle between ethics and financial gain

The medical profession has always been regarded as a noble profession that originated from the primary desire to help the sick and alleviate their suffering. Driven by the aspiration of serving humanity, physicians and other medical professionals play a key role in the society. However, there has been considerable conflict of interest (COI) between the ethics of this noble profession and the financial gains made by collaborating with pharmaceutical companies that may affect every aspect of health care, including clinical care, teaching and research.

A COI exists when professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest is unduly influenced by a secondary interest. Among the medical professionals, it has become a global trend to prescribe and thereby promote some drugs just for the sake of monetary gains, irrespective of the fact whether they are addictive in nature or not. The practice of gifting goodies and other eye-catchy items from the manufacturing companies of medications and devices has also become quite prevalent among doctors to encourage them to dispense their drugs.

In fact, companies are spending a huge amount of money on an annual basis on just influencing physicians. Therefore, it has become essential to understand the way drug-marketing companies are influencing the practice of medicine. Medical practitioners witness a range of such COIs daily, which has the potential to influence patient care.

Payouts to physicians increasing the rate of bias and undue influence

Several relevant studies conducted on the challenges of extending payments to physicians for the promotion of drugs of different pharma companies have highlighted some of the key findings discussed below. Depending on the nature of financial relationship and the actions of the physicians, one will witness difference in the gravity of bias towards the entire concept of ethical medical practice.

Such a difference will massively affect patients in the long run. Nearly $2.4 billion dollars were pocketed by approximately half of the doctors in the United States in 2015 as reported in one study and mentioned on the CBS news site. The payments and gifts offered by the drug companies acted as an incentive for doctors to prescribe pricey branded drugs and devices being pushed by the sales representatives.

Considering America’s battle against opioid addiction and the above malpractices prevalent in the medical profession, the finger of suspicion is often pointed toward medical practitioners and their clandestine association with drug companies. Reportedly, pharma companies earned more than $60 billion in 2010 for certain branded drugs. With the implementation of certain restrictions on the sales visits to doctors in teaching hospitals, the market share for branded drugs decreased at hospitals where the restrictions were in place while that of generics increased.

Developments in doctor-pharma transparency

It has been possible to make the financial transactions between physicians and the pharma industry more transparent because of the two major developments that include the Physician Payments Sunshine Act and ProPublica. The Physician Payments Sunshine Act, the federal Open Payments program that was established because of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, section 6002, ensures that the manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices mandatorily report payments made to the beneficiaries, such as medical doctors, teaching hospitals, dentists, physicians, etc.

ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news organization, made important strides in bringing transparency in the financial relationships between physicians and drug companies. ProPublica developed a search engine tool named “Dollars for Docs,” which provides the citizens with information at their fingertips.

Patients need to be proactive for their own safety

There are many measures that patients can undertake to reduce costs and avoid becoming mute spectators of the above-mentioned malpractices, particularly with regard to prescription of medicines and treatment. Some of these steps are mentioned below:

·         Enquire the doctor whether any lifestyle changes could help to alleviate their symptoms and if consuming the drug could be done away with altogether.

·         Ask the doctor or pharmacist if a generic alternative of the drug could be made available.

·         Enquire with the pharmacist about availability of equivalent and cheaper substitutes to the prescribed drug.

If you or a loved one is battling prescription drug addiction, it is imperative to seek professional help. The Colorado Prescription Abuse Helpline assists in accessing the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers in Colorado that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-922-5915 or chat online with our medical representatives to know more about the prescription abuse treatment centers in Colorado.