Tuesday, May 31, 2005

when doctors are chumps

do you think drug companies can track how often a particular doctor prescribes a given drug? they can. if you had asked me that question, i would have leaned toward the cynical and said yes, but i wouldn't know how they did it. according to this article, insurance companies sell the information about what drugs are prescribed, keyed to a number assigned each doctor by the drug enforcement administration (DEA). the federal government and the AMA sell a list of doctors which includes their DEA number. the drug companies buy this information, cross reference it, and whammo, they've got the goods.

the next part of the article is stuff i knew, about the gross tactics drug companies use (and doctors fall for) to convince physicians to prescribe more of the company's drugs. what is compelling is that the data collected by the drug companies proves that doctors are swayed by this advertising, and the denial that doctors maintain. it's like 80% of people thinking they're in the top 20% of drivers. from the article:
In one survey, 61 percent of the residents at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center reported that they themselves are unmoved by drug company gifts. But when asked if they thought their colleagues were swayed, 84 percent said yes.
i have sympathy for doctors. they're busy, and it takes time to keep up with the peer-reviewed literature. often, they want samples for their patients who struggle to afford medications. my old allergist was a great guy, and i was impressed with how he handled the drug reps. still, i think it's the fundamental arrogance of the medical profession that leads to doctors to believe they are not affected by the lobbying of the drug reps.

by the way, i renounce my previous paean to cold medicine. after 4 days of steady sudafed, i'm sick of the stuff. it makes me nervous and irritable. i'm still sick.

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