Drug Company Gifts: Conflicts of Interest

Gifts from drug companies to doctors continue despite reports to the contrary. Companies claim that such gifts are ethical and necessary. The NY Times notes:

“Drug companies spend billions (medicynical emphasis) of dollars wooing doctors – more than they spend on research or consumer advertising. Much of this money is spent on giving doctors free drug samples, free food, free medical refresher courses and payments for marketing lectures. The institute’s report recommends that nearly all of these efforts end.”

Imagine the cost savings to consumers if drug companies spent less on marketing. These companies claim it takes $800,000,000 to bring a new drug to market. How much of this inflated figure is gifts to doctors aimed an influencing their treatment decisions? If we presume the NY Times is correct and more is spent on gifts and advertising then research then the real cost of new drugs is significantly less than companies claim. Guess who ultimately pays for all this?

With drug prices increasing faster than any other part of health care expenditures is it too much to ask, as the IOM (Institute of Medicine) does, that companies and docs forgo this unethical practice?

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