Have you ever walked into your doctor or physician's office and seen pamphlets and pens and tissue boxes with the names of prescription drugs like Lunesta or Allegra or Prilosec written on them? The pen you use to sign in may have Cymbalta written on it. The pamphlet on the table next to you may be all about Claritin. The clipboard your Doctor walks in the room with may be visibly tagged with Flomax.
Do you ever wonder what sort of incentives these drug companies are giving doctors to promote their products? Because, come on people, this is your typical product placement gimmick-the more you see and are exposed to these products, hopefully, the more you may be inclined to use them or ask your doctor about them.
How about this: Imagine your doctor prescribed you medicine just because it was newer and pricier and NOT because it would be the best remedy for you. Well, studies have shown that doctors with financial ties to drug companies have done this in the past. It makes you wonder, is your doctor prescribing you a certain drug because they’re doing consulting work for that company? Read: How Much Are Drug Companies Really Paying Your Doctor?
Take what happened in the case of three Harvard doctors: psychiatrists Joseph Biederman, Timothy E. Wilens, and Thomas Spencer (chronicle.com). This past summer, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) announced that these three doctors cashed in on millions of dollars from drug companies and never reported it, like they should have, to the university and the National Institutes of Health.
Now, locally, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine wants to put a stop to any uncertainty and let you know what their doctors and scientists are up to. In the spring, Penn Medicine plans to launch a web site that will publicly disclose any ties between its medical staff and the pharmaceutical industry, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
So, if you're a patient at Penn Medicine, you'll soon know whether you doctor is getting money or any other incentives from pharmaceutical firms or medical-implant makers.
"It is just human nature: If you know someone else is going to know what you are doing, you may be more careful," said Arthur H. Rubenstein, Dean of the medical school and head of Penn Medicine. Rubenstein also said making this information publicly searchable may make Penn's medical staff more responsible.
Penn Medicine will be the first to publicly post any relationships between its medical staff and pharmaceutical or drug research companies. No other local medical schools, including Drexel, Temple and Thomas Jefferson Universities, currently have plans like this in store.
Doctors and scientists at other area medical schools only have to reveal how much money they're making from the outside to those on the inside; the only time they have to disclose that type of financial information to a patient is if there is a possible conflict.
For Rubenstein, trust plays a significant role in clinical success. And, one way to achieve this success is by being open and honest with patients. The web site is still in the planning stages, but is due to go live sometime this spring.
"I think people realize it is the right thing to do, and we are very committed to do it," Rubenstein said.