The basic question is: does Jane Q. Public really care about the debate now going on in Congress about physician payment sunshine laws? Or is this really a public non-issue that politicians are jumping on for the bandwagon ride? The survey offers a resounding affirmation that the public at large is truly concerned and that the pols may actually be responding to real public pressure. (Indeed, I have to admit, almost too resounding--had the results been the opposite, and had the survey been paid for by the drug industry, it would never pass the sniff test. But I cannot offhand spot any methodological flaws.)
Some key data from the telephone poll of about 1000 Americans conducted in early June by International Communications Research for the Prescription Project: more than half (52%) believe that the pharmaceutical industry has a large or extermely large influence on the physician's choice of a medication. Significant majorities believe that many common gifts or payments (which I have taken to calling "bribes") to physicians should be prohibited:
- Free dinners--84%
- Fees for speaking at company-sponsored conferences--80%
- Free lunch for office staff--78%
- Free pens and note pads--70%
- Free attendance at continuing ed courses--62%
By contrast, only 51% favored banning "free" drug samples, but note that that is still a majority.
Sixty-four percent said it was important to know about their physician's ties to the pharmaceutical industry. (Though only 36% said they personally would be likely to ask their physicians this question directly.) Sixty-eight percent said they supported legislation requiring companies to disclose payments to docs. And 71% were likely to support legislation that would provide non-commercially biased, expert drug information to physicians (such as "academic detailing").
So in sum it appears that people are very concerned about the influence exerted by these bribes, are unwilling to ask their physwicians flat out about their industry ties, and so would like the reassurance of knowing that these ties are being reported through some public oversight mechanism--as well as to be sure their docs have access to an alternative, less biased source of information.