Docs’ Free Meals Tip the Scale for Meds
Just one complimentary lunch—amazingly, that’s all it may take for your doctor to prescribe more expensive, brand name drugs instead of less expensive medication. A study published online in the JAMA Internal Medicine showed that physicians who receive payment—dinner with a pharmaceutical rep, for example—tend to prescribe the particular drug associated with the free meal at a much higher rate than doctors who don’t receive compensation.
Regulation in effect since 2013 requires all drug and medical device manufacturers to report payments to doctors. The latest study looked at prescribing practices for one brand name drug for which there are cheaper, equally effective alternatives, in each of 4 classes: medications to treat high cholesterol, heart rhythm disorders, high blood pressure, and depression. Doctors who received free meals prescribed the associated drugs from twice to more than 5 times as often.
According to researchers, it’s likely the time the doctors and drug reps spend together—rather than the cost of a meal—that influences the doctor’s prescribing preference. Dr. R. Adams Dudley, one of the study’s authors suggests patients talk to their provider and ask, "Is there a generic that's just as good?"
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