Consumers Digest (subscription required; article will be free on line in 2 months I understand) features in their March/April issue an article by Catherine Elton, "Under the Influence: How Doctors Are Courted by Drugmakers." An accompanying editorial proclaims, "It's Enough to Make You Sick."
The article might initially produce the reaction from all four regular readers of this blog, "Where have you been all this time?" Most of what is said about Pharma's ways of influencing physicians through free dinners, samples, drug rep visits, speakers' bureaus etc. is totally old news.
The value of this article seems merely to be a reminder of how surprised and aghast regular folks are when they did not know about all this and discover it for the first time. The reaction is certainly not what the pharmapologists confidently predict, "So what? I trust my doctor."
The one new feature perhaps of this discussion is a strong recommendation to patients to refuse free samples from the physician. The article and editorial note how likely it is that a sample drug 1) won't be the one your doctor would ideally have chosen for you and 2) will likely end up costing you more money down the road even if it saves you a buck now. This is a novel approach I don't recall hearing previously, and it would certainly do a lot to dampen the eagerness of docs to keep a stock of samples. I wish the article had mentioned the excellent Unbranded Doctor Campaign of the National Physicians Alliance:
--which offers docs resources for their offices such as pamphlets and posters explaining to patients why they don't stock samples. (The editorial does quote liberally from Dr. Jean Silver-Isenstadt, NPA executive director.)