New data points to the fact that doctors are influenced by meals as cheap as $20. Physicians tend to prescribe more expensive drugs instead of cheaper, generic ones when they are invited to eat for free, even if the meals cost 20$. Moreover, when they receive extra- value meals physicians are even more inclined to prescribe expensive equivalents.
Over the course of 2013, 4.3 million American companies paid $ 3.4 billion to nearly 500.000 physicians and 1000 teaching hospitals. There has been great controversy over the prescribing habits of physicians especially since recent attempts to shed light on the issue only led to more questions.
While some studies suggest that these meals don’t influence doctors greatly, others appear to support that statement. Smaller payments, such as meals don’t influence physicians too much, according to a study which also found that these meals account for 80% of payments in this industry.
So far, the effect of smaller payments remains uncertain.
Researchers looked into data concerning medicines such as olmesartan medoxomil, nebivolol, or other types of serotonin inhibitors and found that overall, nearly 300,000 doctors received close to 65,000 payments. The average value was less than 20$.
Those who received four industry-sponsored meals began to prescribe more expensive drugs at a double rate than those who did not receive anything in return for their prescription.
The authors of the study do not believe these findings represent a cause-effect relationship, but rather that they are cross-sectional. They also point out that there is a greater need for transparency in the physician-industry relationships in the United States.
One of the conductors of the research, doctor Steinbrook believes that if drug makers invested more money into development and research for new drugs, rather than investing in giving free meals to doctors, the system would be better off.
He also believes that there is growing tension in the medical sector, and this can affect the independence of doctors, companies, or even the affordable price of medical care.
There are not many reasons for which physicians would choose to prescribe more expensive drugs, other than supporting research, or consulting purposes. However, in the end, it’s a personal choice of the prescriber.
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