A recent report in The Wall Street Journal entitled, “Even Cheap Meals Influence Doctors’ Drug Prescriptions, Study Suggests,” attempts to suggest an untoward influence resulting from drug company-sponsored physician education events.
After reading the full study, it is clear that the WSJ author not only misinterpreted the conclusions of the study, but completely discounts the role that companies have in educating physicians about their products.
Contrary to the author’s point, communication between drug companies and doctors are a positive thing and should be encouraged. Who would know more about a product than the people that created it? Who would know the benefits and risks associated with a particular drug better than those who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars and spent years testing it? Doctors entrust their reputations—and patients entrust their lives—to therapies and medicines made by these companies. It is only common sense that a robust dialogue be facilitated.
But on a broader point, the author’s thesis that doctors are unduly influenced with a “cheap meal” is misguided. It’s entirely reasonable that doctors who are already interested in these particular drugs are more likely to attend an event to learn the details on the latest evidence from the company that developed the drug—not necessarily the other way around.
We shouldn’t demean the healthy dialogue between doctors and biopharmaceutical companies. In fact, we need to be doing more to encourage communication between the two. It only serves to benefit the patient by briefing physicians on the latest evidence and breakthroughs. Only when all stakeholders can come together on behalf of lifesaving innovation will patients have a healthcare system that truly works for them.