When it comes to your health, you’d probably like to think that physicians meet with drug company representatives strictly to get information that will ensure patients get the most beneficial treatments. You’d like to think that pharmaceutical companies don’t ply doctors with gifts in an attempt to influence their prescription choices. And wouldn’t you like to think that the next time you find yourself at a doctor’s office, the prescription that he or she writes for you will be based solely on what is best for you?
Unfortunately, that may not be the case.
Public Citizen today released new findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showing that in Vermont, drug companies gave more than $4.9 million in payments to health care providers between July 2002 and July 2004 – far more than the $2.7 million that we uncovered and reported in JAMA in March 2007.
Evidently, the 21 drug companies involved tried to conceal some of their expenditures under the claim that revealing the data would expose “trade secrets.”
In 2005, Public Citizen sued the attorney general of Vermont and the involved pharmaceutical companies to get complete information regarding their payments – and the uncovered “secrets” were astonishing.
Vermont doctors received more than $3.2 million from drug companies in payments valued over $100, 86 percent of which were to health care providers, apparently in violation of professional guidelines put forth by both the American Medical Association and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
While Public Citizen was able to uncover further details of such “trade secrets” of Vermont physicians, pharmaceutical companies play a key role in the prescribing decisions of physicians throughout the country. That’s why we are pushing for a national database to be established to track drug company payments to doctors.
Wouldn’t you like to think your physician puts your health first?