You go to your doctor’s office for a routine check-up. Everything is fine but your cholesterol is a little high. The doctor wants to put you on medication because lowering your cholesterol will significantly reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Sounds good until you get to the pharmacy and realize this will cost you a hundred dollars a month, for life. Why would my doctor prescribe a medication for me that is going to cost $1,200 a year?. Why didn’t he choose something a little cheaper?. Why didn’t he tell me about eating better and exercising?.
Your doctor will go through a thought process before prescribing your medication. Some of it is based on age, sex, race, weight, experience, and other medical conditions. You may be surprised to find out that some of his decision may be based on the “attention” he receives from the drug companies. The term attention is used to refer to the many number of gifts or freebees given to the doctors for prescribing certain medication.
The billion dollar drug manufacturers know how to influence your doctor into prescribing their drug. In years gone by, the gifts given to doctor were pretty extravagant. I’ve heard stories of a leased car, an Alaskan cruise, and untold free rounds of golf. Recently, the companies have come to a “gentleman’s agreement.” They discovered the gifts were getting out of control with each company trying to one-up the other. The free items were reduced significantly to pens, pencils, pads, clocks, and anything else you can use in a doctor’s office. Look around the office; everything has a drug name on it.
The manufacturers have now gotten clever again and give away free continuing education, or CEs. These are something every health professional must have in order to keep his or her license active. They are usually sponsored by drug companies. When a doctor has been prescribing the company’s drug, the representative may give him a ticket to a continuing education seminar. The seminar is usually held in a nice vacation area like Miami, New York, San Diego, or even Hawaii. Everything is paid for; flight, hotel, and rental car. All the doctor has to do is attend the seminar to get his credits. The CE credits are important and keep health professionals up to date on the latest therapies, but they are also held locally. The fact that they are held in these exotic locations is the bonus for prescribing the medications.
You may be wondering how the drug manufacturer’s representative knows how many prescriptions the doctor is writing. The manufacturers print up a prescription pad with everything on it including the medication for the doctor to sign. All that is needed is a signature. The pads have a sequential number printed on them. So when the representative returns weeks later, all he has to do is look at the next number to know how many prescriptions have been written.
He will also drop off free samples for the doctor to give away to his patients. Your doctor will give you free samples to get you started on the medication. The companies know once you start, you will probably stay on the medication for a long period of time. So giving away a little bit of medication up from will pay off in big profits at the end.
When your doctor has the decision to make in regards to the medication he will prescribe, do you think these gifts are in the back of his mind?. Now he has to decide whether to prescribe the less expensive generic or the more expensive brand and possibly get some freebees. The more expensive brand name drugs he prescribes, the more gifts, freebees, and “vacation CE” he receives. The more free samples he gives out, the better he looks in his patient’s eyes, and the better he looks in the manufacturer’s eyes. But you, the patient, will be spending money at the pharmacy for months buying the expensive brand drug.
The purpose of this article is not to decide whether this method of drug selection is immoral. Your doctor is supposed to choose the right medication for your condition. The fact that he is getting a reward for prescribing expensive medication has to be an issue.
The next time you get a prescription from your doctor, ask him about a less expensive generic. Just about every medication has an alternate that is available in generic form. The generics will always be cheaper. In prescription drugs, it is definitely not; “you get what you pay for.” Less expensive generics must work just like the more expensive brand name drugs. By using generics, you will spend less money every month.