Whether it’s a family physician or a specialist of some kind, we’ve all been in the waiting room of our doctor’s office when a pharmaceutical sales rep has walked in, samples in hand, all set to convince the doctor that her drugs are the ones to prescribe. Many of us are disturbed by the fact that powerful drugs are being pitched in this way at all, but new evidence gives us even more reason to be disturbed.
A cross-country study of drug rep visits and doctor’s prescribing habits in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that in 59% of sales rep promotions to doctors, the sales reps failed to provide any information at all about either common or serious side effects of their drugs on patients. Neither was any information provided for patients who shouldn’t use the drug at all.
This is true even with drugs with black box warnings, the strongest warnings that the FDA can require a manufacturer to place on their packaging. 57% of the drugs being pitched had a black box warning, but only 6% of reps said anything about these severe side effects in their promotions.
What compounds the danger of these unbalanced drug pitches is the fact that 85% of doctors report that these pitches by pharmaceutical representatives are their first source of information about new drugs. That means while most doctors rely on this information when prescribing drugs to their patients, this information is far from complete.
Legally, pharmaceutical reps are required to provide complete and balanced information during these sales pitches. But the FDA does nothing to regulate these meetings or enforce the standards.
Studies show time and again that these sales pitches work. Two-thirds of the time, doctors will prescribe the medicines that are pitched to them. But they are doing so under incomplete information. Patient health is what is ultimately affected.
What do pharma reps have in the way of an explanation? They say that these visits are not long enough to disclose the harmful side effects of their drugs. However, on average, their visits last longer than 5 minutes. The commercials for drugs on television last only 60 seconds, but somehow manage to provide thorough side effect information nonetheless. Time limitations are nothing but an excuse. The reality is that drug companies push their representatives to paint their products in as rosy a light as possible to encourage as many doctors as possible to begin prescribing their products.
Until there is more regulation and enforcement of the rules, doctors, and patients have to take more responsibility for their own knowledge about the products they are willing to prescribe and take. Doctors need to begin using their time to push representatives to disclose the harmful side effects of their products. Only by having a complete picture of a drug can a doctor responsibly prescribe it.
As a patient, you are not powerless. Insist that your doctor gives you a complete picture of the drug you are taking. Ask for the literature, and be sure, to be honest about the other drugs you take, and any other habits such as alcohol use. All of this information is important and allows your doctor to make the best decision for you.
Every drug has side effects. We get clients every day who have suffered serious harm as a result of a drug or medical device that was prescribed to them. The consequences are serious and lasting. The best way to prevent this from happening to you is to become a zealous advocate for your own health.
If you have suffered an injury due to a drug or device, contact the personal injury attorneys at Kirkendall Dwyer LLP. We are always available for your free case review. Fill out a form to be contacted by an attorney today.