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Pharma Expands Wining and Dining of Docs, and YOU Pay For It

Pharma Expands Wining and Dining of Docs, and YOU Pay For It

May 16, 2014

The Department of Public Health recently released the 2012 figures on drug industry marketing spending on gifts and meals for Massachusetts doctors.

Remember, halfway through 2012 the state legislature weakened the state's rules, which had banned out-of-office meals provided by pharma sales representatives as part of their drug marketing and promotional campaigns. The new provision was supposed to allow only "modest meals," but the DPH regulations did not put any practical limit on the wining and dining, allowing even alcohol to be provided to medical professionals as part of so-called "educational" presentations.

The results were very predictable.

Spending for food and drink skyrocketed, as you can see below. (By the way, under DPH rules pharma companies only have to report spending for food if it exceeds $50 per person. So this chart only captures spending ABOVE $50 per person per event). With just half a year of relaxed regulations, spending went up 40% for the entire year.

Pharma payments for food and drink for Massachusetts doctors soared 40% between 2011 and 2012

It's been shown again and again that these marketing ploys are effective (see below). After all, why else would the pharma companies spend so much on it. What's worse is that the cost of these meals and drinks (a) get passed on as part of the cost structure of the pharma industry, increasing the cost of prescription drugs for all of us; and (b) are tax deductible as marketing expenses, lowering their tax burden and raising ours.

Coincidentally, Dr. Aaron Carroll of The Incidental Economist blog posted of number of tweets today on the topic of pharma marketing via gifts to doctors. A sampling is below - click on any tweet to go to the post and the link to the supporting data.

22% of patients know docs accept dinners from pharma. 48% think it's unacceptable. 70% believe gifts influence docs.

 

Only 39% of medical residents think they're influenced by pharma. But 84% think other doctors all are.

 

Docs claim they're not influenced by interactions with drug reps or gifts. Guess what happened next?

 

Docs went on paid symposium trip. 85% said couldn't be influenced. Guess what happened next?