Apparently, it doesn’t take much to alter a doctor’s judgment. According to a recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, a single meal can be enough to change the drugs a doctor prescribes away from generics and towards more expensive, brand-name drugs. The study also found that the more meals a doctor receives, the greater the share of brand-name drugs he or she will prescribe.
This study adds to other recent research that shows correlation between relationships with pharmaceutical companies and the frequency of proscribing brand name drugs. A March story by ProPublica found that a doctor’s acceptance of money or meals from pharmaceutical companies or medical device manufacturers correlated with an increased likelihood that doctor would prescribe brand name drugs or use certain medical devices. A May Harvard Medical School study found the same, but only in cases where an individual received $2,000 or more.
The most recent study focused on meals valued under $20, removing doctors who received other payment types (such as speaking fees) from the data. Doctors who received at least four meals from those pushing Crestor, a cholesterol lowering drug, prescribed it at almost double the frequency of doctors that received no meals. The difference in prescription rates for other drugs was even higher. Physicians who received meals related to the blood pressure drug Bystolic prescribed it at five times the rate of those who hadn’t dined on the company’s dime. Doctors who received meals from brand-name drug pushers also prescribed Benicar, another blood pressure drug, 4.5 times more often than their peers, and antidepressant drug Pristiq 3.4 times more frequently.
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