Doctors and pharmaceutical companies have a relationship that has been going on for centuries. Doctors are the ones who prescribe medicine to patients, so they have an important relationship with pharmaceutical companies. But how does it work? In this essay I will explore many different aspects of their relationship and try to answer the question: is there a relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies?
The connection between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry is vulnerable to disputes. Because of their dependence on pharmaceutical companies, doctors are more likely to give in to unethical behavior in their work.
Influence of Doctors by Pharmaceutical Industry
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Paul A. Komesaroff, a director and Ethics Convener at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and Ian H. Kerridge, a lecturer in Clinical Ethics, express concern that doctors and pharmaceutical firms may face conflicts as a result of shared interests. They both strive to assist people suffering from disease in recovery.
Doctors are more concerned with the health of their patients, whereas pharmaceutical manufacturers are more focused on making money by producing medications. Pharmaceutical firms rely on doctors to generate sales for their drugs through frequent prescriptions to patients (Komesaroff & Kerridge, 2002).
There are two drawbacks of advertising pharmaceuticals, according to Nancy Crigger and William Jewell from College Hill Department of Nursing USA: “It influences the ability of health care providers to act in the patient’s best interests and can compromise patient care; secondly, patients’ trust in medical experts may be damaged” (Crigger et al., 2009, p. 647).
This implies that the doctors may prescribe pharmaceuticals to their patients in order to maintain good relationships with the pharmaceutical firms, which is unethical. The impact of mutual interaction between a doctor and a pharmaceutical firm, company-provided benefits, or company-funded medical care can all contribute to this.
Causes of such Influence
Pharmaceutical companies provide significant financial backing for the research and development of new medicines. The pharmaceutical firms invest millions of dollars in this approach. This may have an impact on doctors’ prescription habits, causing them to utilize company-sponsored drugs that fund medical study (Komesaroff & Kerridge, 2002).
The more pharmaceutical reps a doctor has, the more likely he/she is to have drugs from other companies in addition to his/her own (Komesaroff & Kerridge, 2002). Pharmaceutical firms spend about $3 billion on advertising and $5 billion on sales representatives in the United States (Komesaroff & Kerridge, 2002).
Another aspect of influence is the act of gifting items such as books to medical students and interns. They may find themselves having to utilize what they have been given if they are involved in a gift-giving campaign. They become accustomed to a specific pharmaceutical firm before they begin working. Drug launches by pharmaceutical companies might be alluring (Komesaroff & Kerridge, 2002).
Seminars on medical education are also powerful since specific speakers and themes may be biased towards certain pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical firms occasionally pay for medical practitioners to attend such events. Pharmaceutical businesses can also influence drug prescriptions by controlling health publications and advertising their items as best (Komesaroff & Kerridge, 2002).
To avoid the influence of any pharmaceutical company, doctors must have a clear vision of how they will care for the patient. They should also stay away from all forms of gratuity and entertainment. The following has been recommended by Crigger et al. (2009): “Ban all gifts, including drug samples, explaining this change is direct result of current community and public attitudes toward pharmaceutical marketing” (Crigger et al., 2009, p. 648).
Sponsorship by pharmaceutical firms should be for the appropriate experts and should be handled by an independent committee that is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical firm. All medical papers, regardless of their commercial interest (Komesaroff & Kerridge, 2002), should follow ethical standards other than those of the pharmaceutical company.
Pharmaceutical firms have a great deal of influence on patient medication decisions. Doctors must adhere to ethical standards when giving prescription drugs since they may be influenced by the pharmaceutical industry and should put the interests of their patients first.
In a traditional relationship between doctors and medical or corporate representatives, the corporate representative’s main aim is to promptly inform the medical profession of the firm’s goods. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it becomes problematic when incentives are provided to the medical representative or if there is a pay policy in place for them.
According to a recent press release, GlaxoSmithKline has stopped paying physicians to promote their products and is experimenting with new marketing methods (article 1). GlaxoSmithKline’s new policy is an improvement from the ethical standpoint, as the connection between the two parties is now considered tainted. This essay examines how GlaxoSmithKline, and other drug companies, benefit from having a relationship with medical professionals.
Drug firms contact physicians to advertise their medical offerings. To make a lasting impact on the doctors, drug companies might give them gifts and other incentives like pens and notepads with the company’s name. This sort of conduct is acceptable under the PhRMA’s code of conduct for pharmaceutical company-physician interactions, which states that “the representation of pharmaceutical companies in general does not constitute endorsement or promotion” (article 2).
Both parties profit from this sort of behavior, and pharmaceutical reps may have their say while medical experts receive up-to-date information on the company’s product line and modest bonuses that would have a minimal impact on the human psyche. Moral doctors would advocate for drugs with the maximum therapeutic benefit to their patients.
While there should be boundaries or acceptable levels to prevent unethical medical conduct, such as the PhRMA code and the US legislation, these norms and regulations all have one issue: they may be interpreted differently by various individuals.
The lack of ethical guidelines or regulations is not an excuse since it is assumed that medical doctors and pharmaceutical firms are unable to consider if their actions have any ethical implications or whether they were unable to distinguish between good and bad. It takes two to tango; both teams share responsibility. They’ve forgotten how their judgments would affect people. Pharmaceutical businesses and medical practitioners must remember that their work is intended to benefit humanity, not enslave people.
In an old-fashioned relationship between doctors and medical or business representatives, the corporate representative’s main goal is to immediately inform the medical field about the company’s products. Nothing wrong with it; however, when a medical representative is provided financial incentives or works under a corporate pay plan, it becomes situational.
GlaxoSmithKline has announced that they will no longer pay physicians to promote their products and try new marketing approaches (article 1). GlaxoSmithKline’s revised policy is an improvement in the ethical sense because the connection between the two parties is tainted, making it no longer a respectable relationship.
GlaxoSmithKline’s decision to cease paying medical doctors to advertise their products and eliminate incentive payments for salespeople based on purchases is an ethical approach to a corrupt industry (article 1). The firm claims it will focus on the technical details of its product as well as quality of service to health professionals (article 1).
This shows the company’s confidence in the drug’s potential to benefit patients. It takes two to tango, however. The medical doctors are equally responsible for the mistake. Paying pharmaceutical companies to promote medicines raises questions about whether paying doctors to advertise drugs may improperly influence what they prescribe.
Obviously, giving small tokens to bigger ones creates a sense of obligation for recipients to return them, and in this case it would be for pharmaceutical companies to prescribe their drugs. Physicians must stop being naïve and denying that marketing has an impact on their decisions. The usage of pens and trips to Hawaii is not intended to dissuade patients from considering the medical advantages of the product using logical, critical thinking; rather, it’s meant to buy their souls.
Is it possible that pharmaceutical firms have too much control over how doctors practice medicine? Pharmaceutical companies investing millions of dollars on physicians so they will prescribe their drugs is an issue in the medical sector that persists. Unfortunately, once doctors prescribe medications, they don’t offer patients the option to buy a generic alternative.
However, regardless of the circumstances, pharmaceutical corporations should be more concerned with assisting patients rather than breaking the bank. Some pharmaceutical corporations encourage doctors to prescribe their medicines, regardless of how much it costs the patient.
Given the ban, it may be deduced that the reason behind it is to avoid their patients from believing they are influenced by anything else while making treatment decisions. “However, the standards do not prohibit all interactions with healthcare providers. Drug reps are allowed to provide physicians with “modest meals” only if they give an “informational presentation.” (ProQuest, 10) It’s clear that pharmaceutical firms’ primary goal must be to keep doctors up to date on the newest medications accessible to them.
Over the last several years, interactions between physicians and the pharmaceutical business have grown dramatically, with it becoming quite frequent. The main goal of a medical practitioner is to serve humanity.
The primary goal is to enhance one’s personal financial position. However, the most fundamental function of a medical representative is to inform the doctor about his company’s pharmaceuticals, which is legal. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the end user of this information is the patient. After all, continued professional growth is an important element of a good health care system.
There is a division between the patient’s and physicians’ interests when it comes to drug promotion. A conflict of interest occurs frequently in medicine, particularly in regards to primary ethical or professional interests clashing with financial self-interests. Drugs promotion is defined by the World Health Organization as any informational and persuasion efforts by manufacturers and distributors aimed at inducing/influencing sales and usage of medicinal drugs.
Drug companies frequently utilize incentives that are too appealing to be rejected by a doctor. Because of the high competition among pharmaceutical firms to promote their goods, medical representatives must use greater aggressiveness in order for them to succeed. Manufacturers employing this strategy are looking for opportunities to meet with their customers in person, when possible. They use incentives to encourage doctors to prescribe pharmaceuticals and boost sales. [3, 4] These interactions include presents, samples, industry-sponsored dinners, travel or lodging expenses to attend educational symposias, CME (Continuing Medical Education) sponsorship, honoraria, research funding, and employment.
Accepting such items as pens, pen-stand, notebooks, calendars, pharmaceutical samples, and company-sponsored lunches and dinners is not considered unethical by a significant portion of doctors.
In practice, this would result in a loss of objectivity in professional judgments and a potential conflict of interest for physicians. As a result, the conflict of interests would violate the best interests of patients as well as the integrity and professionalism of physicians. Accepting fancy gifts with no value to them other than enjoyment is considered unethical by them.
They also agree not to promote medical products of drug companies whose medical representatives provide biased or self-serving information about their products. Even if doctors assert that they only prescribe medicines that are beneficial to their patients, regardless of the fact that they are constantly visited and pressurized by pharmaceutical companies to do so – a considerable amount of evidence suggests otherwise.
When a gift is given, the obligation to return it represents indebtedness in a doctor. Because of his professional training, he may be tempted to pay back owing to his education; as a result, his therapies might be ineffective.
Inappropriate relationships between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry have been discovered to have a number of negative consequences that go against a patient’s greatest interests. Such interactions include free gifts, samples, meals paid by the business, travel or lodging reimbursement for attending educational symposia, CME sponsorship, honoraria, research funding, and employment. To prevent unethical cooperation between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry, government must implement strict rules.
To solve this unethical collaboration of physicians and pharmaceutical industry, comprehensive ethical standards must be developed. Each element must be dedicated to the code of ethics. Patients need to understand the advantages of generic medicines, which are less expensive and provide comparable results as well as patent medications.