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Consumers say big pharma influence on docs is concerning

Consumer Reports News: August 24, 2010 06:03 AM

Consumers, in a turn of the tables, have given their doctors a checkup and the diagnosis looks pretty grim: They think doctors are too cozy with big pharma, according to the 2nd annual prescription drug survey conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center. The survey of more than 1,150 adults who currently take a prescription drug found that the vast majority object to the payments and rewards pharmaceutical companies routinely dole out to doctors because they feel these are negatively influencing how they treat patients.

More than two thirds, or 69 percent, of consumers surveyed said they think drugmakers have too much influence on doctors' decisions about which drug to prescribe. Half of those polled said they feel doctors are too eager to prescribe a drug rather than consider alternate methods of managing a condition. And 47 percent said they think gifts from pharma companies influence doctors to prescribe certain drugs, with 41 percent saying they think doctors tend to prescribe newer, more expensive drugs.

Consumers also told Consumer Reports they were wary of other payments and rewards the pharmaceutical industry gives to physicians. A whopping 81 percent said they are concerned about the rewards drugmakers give to doctors who write a lot of prescriptions for a company’s drugs. And 72 percent were displeased with payments pharmaceutical companies give to doctors for testimonials or for serving as a company spokesperson for a given drug.

Sixty-one percent of consumers voiced concern about pharmaceutical companies paying doctors to speak at industry conferences, while 58 percent were concerned by big drug companies buying meals for doctors and their staffs.

At the same time, consumers are struggling to cover the costs of their drugs. In the past year, 39 percent reported taking some action to reduce costs . Some of these actions were potentially dangerous. Overall, 27 percent failed to take a drug as prescribed, for example, by not getting a prescription filled (16 percent), taking an expired medication (12 percent), or sharing a prescription with someone else to save money (4 percent).

A better choice is asking your doctor or pharmacist if there's a less expensive generic version of your drug available, and 37 percent of those surveyed reported doing that.

Steve Mitchell, associate editor, Consumer Reports Health Best Buy Drugs

Aaron Bailey


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