The Way to The Physician’s Prescription Pad

So, why DID that doctor prescribe Drug A to you over Drug B?  The answer might not be “because it’s the best drug for you”, but rather “Company A has better drug reps than Company B”.  This article by a physician and a former drug company rep in PLoS Medicine details the tricks of the drug company representative trade:  psychology, gifts, false friendships, and flattery.  In a word:  salesmanship.

While it’s the doctors’ job to treat patients…it’s my job to constantly sway the doctors. It’s a job I’m paid and trained to do. Doctors are neither trained nor paid to negotiate. Most of the time they don’t even realize that’s what they’re doing…

—Shahram Ahari

This article is a good read for anyone who’s been prescribed a non-generic drug.  Notice that hardly anywhere in there is it mentioned whether the drugs being promoted are particularly effective drugs or not.  There are many effective drugs on the market, and yes, some of them are expensive.  But the not-so-effective drugs are being pushed as much as the effective ones, I promise.  I also found particularly creepy the process of “script tracking”, which allows pharmaceutical companies to track a doctor’s prescribing habits…so that they can further pressure (or give up on) doctors to change those habits.  I didn’t even know this was happening.

This shouldn’t be taken as a reason to never trust your doctor’s ability to prescribe for you.  It is, however, a reason to take charge of your own medicine.  Ask if there’s a generic.  Ask why the doctor is prescribing that drug for you.  Ask for (or look up yourself) data on what studies have been done to show that an expensive drug is better than a cheaper generic.  And if you see samples (even if they’re given to you free), be aware of what they mean:  the pharmaceutical company has been trying to influence your doctor…and may have succeeded.

(cross-posted to Tumblr:  The Way to The Physician’s Prescription Pad)

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