Sunday, April 27, 2014

Why physicians should not accept money from the pharmaceutical industry

If we have learned anything from a decade’s worth of litigation, it is that the pharmaceutical industry pays the vast majority of physicians for one reason: to market their drugs. And why would we have ever thought otherwise? Pharma companies are not charitable organizations. They are not in the business of education, or philanthropy, or poverty relief, or even — let’s be honest — health care. Their business is to manufacture and sell drugs. Unlike most any other businesses, however, pharmaceutical companies must go through an intermediary in order to sell their product. This places physicians in a position of singular trust. They stand between corporations and the vulnerable, sometimes desperate patients that those corporations call “customers.”

How have physicians managed that delicate task? Make that judgment for yourself. In 2010, the pharmaceutical industry surpassed the defense industry as the leading defrauder of the federal government. Pharmaceutical companies were forced to pay $19.8 billion in penalties over a 20-year period, with a dramatic upswing coming in the mid-2000s. Although the largest category of penalty was for off-label promotion, that particular violation was just the visible face of a more far-reaching scandal. Thanks to the efforts of whistleblowers, expert witnesses, and investigative reporters, we know that pharmaceutical companies have rigged clinical trials, buried unfavorable results, published ghostwritten journal articles, paid kickbacks high-prescribers, bullied academic critics, produced fake medical journals, and manipulated treatment guidelines. Without the help of physicians, very little of this could have been accomplished.

Read the rest of my latest anti-pharma sermon in Neurology Clinical Practice.


  1. Well said!

    I would add that individual doctors should not accept drug samples to give to patients from pharmaceutical reps. Doctors who accept drug samples prescribe, overall, more costly (and no more effective) medications.

    Simon Whitney
    Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

  2. Well said. And of course the trail begins, leads, ends, includes, was formatted right at our own beloved U-MN department of psychiatry. Carnival barker Chuck Schulz, department of psychiatry chair, takes the old Barnum & Bailey approach of "there's a sucker born every minute" to the max. His highly vocal and handsomely rewarded infomercials for either AstraZeneca or Lilly are a matter of record. Unfortunately, they are/were also paid for by abused patients wrongfully diagnosed or treated because of his overwhelming need to line his own pockets with pharma money.

  3. It is shame all of this controversy has arisen and certain medical professionals have not been honest or conscientious. There are pharmaceuticals that can make a real difference in the quality of a sick person's life but often they are hesitant to try them because of all of the bad apples in the bunch.

  4. MS is the worst with the drugs promoted many have died on . Many cannot speak up for themselves and others are dead