Big Pharma – the worldwide multibillion-dollar drug industry – does us a huge service by curing our ills. Unfortunately, its correspondingly gargantuan sales can attract all manner of unethical players out to make a personal profit by misrepresenting themselves and their products to their buyers: our doctors.
On Dec. 11, the District of Columbia took a first step in getting Big Pharma to clean its house by giving initial approval to the SafeRx Act of 2007, legislation that would force licensing of pharmaceutical sales reps, as well as requiring that they be college graduates, AND sign a code of ethics. It’s expected that other states may follow the District’s lead with similar legislation.
So, what does that mean to you, the cancer survivor?
Should the legislation pass, there’s a better chance of lower-cost drugs being available. If doctors are able to get the unvarnished story about generic vs. branded drugs – the truth about the efficacy and side effects of each – they’ll be more likely to offer you a lower-cost prescription. As it stands now, fast-talkers hired by drug companies often persuade doctors, sometimes with outright lies, that their drugs are superior to the lower-priced competition’s. The SafeRx Act would take the current weak “policing” of pharmaceutical sales reps out of the hands of their own companies (and federal agencies)–effectively removing the fox from the henhouse.
A second part of the bill bans secret “data mining” of doctors’ prescription records by drug companies, which use that data to build marketing and sales programs. Big Pharma and the American Medical Association claim that the data is sometimes used for research, as well. They suggest a new “opt-in” approach, with doctors giving permission for their data to be examined and used.
I’m with Big Pharma on this one. If docs want to open their prescription records, for whatever reason, let them (assuming, of course, complete patient privacy). In the long run, they’re the ones who’ll have responsibility for seeing through the advertising hype built via their data. Caveat emptor.
Read the Washington Post article on licensing pharma sales reps:
Published On: December 13, 2007