Doctors say free drug samples influence prescribing behavior, but still think the influence is ethical

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 by: Jessica Fraser
Tags: drug promotion, drug profits, health news

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(NaturalNews) According to a new study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, most doctors believe accepting free drug samples from pharmaceutical companies is ethical, though the majority believe other doctors are more likely to be influenced by such incentives than they are.

Researchers surveyed nearly 400 members of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists about their relationships with pharmaceutical companies, and found that a third of respondents believed free drug samples influenced doctors' prescribing practices, though more than 90 percent thought accepting the samples was ethical.

"Relationships between doctors and drug companies are far too cozy," said health author and drug industry critic Mike Adams. "Multiple studies show doctors are easily and predictably influenced by free samples, free meals and free vacations sponsored by drug companies, and yet most physicians continue to accept these 'legal bribes' even while acknowledging their influence on prescribing behavior. This represents a serious lapse in the ethics of modern medicine."

More than 50 percent of respondents to the survey believed that it was ethical to accept profitable consulting positions with drug companies for prescribing "high volume" amounts of that company's drugs, while a third thought their decision to prescribe a certain drug would be influenced by accepting free samples.

However, most survey respondents felt that they were far less likely to accept gifts, free lunches and consultancies than other doctors, even if the gifts were offered without free drug samples. Those respondents also believed other doctors' prescribing decisions would be more influenced by accepting drug company gifts than their own decisions.

Most respondents said they gave out the free drug samples they accepted to help patients with financial difficulties, and less than two thirds said they gave out drug samples because they felt they were effective treatments.

Roughly two-thirds of the doctors who responded to the survey knew of the professional guidelines between their profession and the pharmaceutical industry, and 40 percent believed the guidelines should not be tightened.


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