Free Meals Influence What Doctors Prescribe
According to a study using Medicare records, something as small as a free meal from a drug company can influence which medicines doctors prescribe for Medicare patients.
About the Drug Prescribing
Reports indicate doctors may feel inclined to prescribe a drug after receiving just a small gift, no matter if the drug is more costly to their patients.
Drug companies typically sponsor meals served during medical conferences and end up providing information while the doctors get their food.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Adams Dudley, claims it led him to prescribe brand-name drugs, stating that it is human nature to respond to gifts.
It is definitely costing patients more, adding up to an estimated $73 billion annually, which could be saved if generics were prescribed.
Holly Campbell, a spokeswoman for the group, claims the study does not prove free meals influenced prescribing patterns. She said the study “cherry-picks physician prescribing data for a subset of medicines to advance a false narrative”.
Findings of the Study
The study involved prescribing information for nearly 280,000 doctors in Medicare’s program. Data on more than 63,000 drug company payments were examined from August – December 2013.
Four classes of drugs were included in the study- statins, antidepressants, and two that treat blood pressure. The top selling brand names were chosen, which their generics were proven to be equally effective.
Doctors who received a free meal sponsored by these companies were more likely to prescribe that drug.
Doctors prescribing rates for these drugs ended up increasing when they accepted more meals, and cost increasing from $4 to about $40 when they used brand names.
The companies claimed that representatives for the companies involved said doctors are not paid to prescribe their products. Sales' reps interactions with physicians over sponsored meals are an important part of educating them about drugs' risks and benefits.