Pharmaceutical Marketing and Unethical Prescriptions

Just one dose a day is a common sales pitch from pharmaceutical companies and prescription drug pushers.  This pitch is often followed by for the rest of your life.   Hopefully these pitches are not unwittingly responded to by oh, ok and repeated trips to the pharmacy.  But instead are followed by a patient’s interrogation of the objective diagnosis for needing to consume a drug, specifics on how that drug is going to help, viability of a generic option, the side effects, and how much money does the prescribing doctor and facility make from pharmaceutical companies. 

 Pharmaceuticals are a humongous industry.  To promote their products, pharmaceutical companies routinely pay millions of dollars to thousands of health care providers.  This is a critical conflict of interest.  Are your doctors more concerned about your good health, or their own income?  Tools to check on health care providers are available through the Internet.  State health boards often give information on disciplinary action.’s Dollars for Docs has an online tool for searching a provider or facility name for payments received from pharmaceutical companies that report those payments.  But, many pharmaceutical companies do not report payments to health care providers.  What are they hiding and who are they protecting?  Certainly it is not patients being protected.

 As the money flows, the ones truly paying those millions of dollars that pharmaceutical companies are giving to health care providers to push their products, are patients, their insurance carriers and taxpayers.  This is sick and wrong, and equates to the homily rubbing salt in the wound

 Advertising of pharmaceuticals through health care providers and facilities is morally wrong, and points to greed and improper medical practices, and should be professionally unethical as well as illegal.  Prescriptions should only be written to address or cure specific symptoms, and therefore only the corresponding specific pharmaceutical will suffice, and it should be offered to the patient at the absolute least expense.  It should not be like hodgepodge stew where the cook throws in everything in the kitchen, and hopes it turns out good, but no big deal.  It is the addressing of pain and suffering, illness and disease.  And, it is the patient, insurance and taxpayers paying.

 Many prescriptions are horribly expensive.  For instance, a new hepatitis C drug, for a typical 12-week course of treatment, is $84,000.  One of the prescriptions that help control leukemia is $5,000 a month.   These facts bring new meaning to have to die to feel better. 

 For years the explanation behind the high and sometimes prohibitive costs of pharmaceuticals has been explained as the high cost of development and testing, but that explanation is only partially accurate.  There are no less than 199 pharmaceutical companies marketing products in the U.S.  That is a lot of competition, and that means a lot of advertising.  Advertising is generally very expensive, and that holds true when the voice and influence of the advertisement is a health care professional.   Patients want to have faith in and trust their health care providers.  But not every provider deserves faith and trust. 

 The Affordable Care Act mandates greater accountability and transparency of health care providers and facilities.  Complaints against health care providers and facilities may be made through state health boards.  Patients, their families and caregivers are the ones who live with health issues.  They, their insurance carriers, and the taxpaying public are the ones paying for the extraneous and over prescribing of pharmaceuticals.  Therefore, they are the voices to rein in prescriptions written on the basis of greed, and not on the basis of good medicine.  Do not be witless.  Do research, ask questions, support and help to enforce good, affordable health care.

 Joan Brown ~ contributor