The debate about the ethically questionable relationship between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry opened up again this morning on the front page of the New York Times. Although the article is heavy on interview and anecdote and a little short on evidence, it is difficult to avoid casting a critical eye on this relationship. The impetus for the article is the new laws in a handful of states requiring drug makers to disclose all payments made to doctors. These laws have made public previously hidden relationships that many doctors have had with the pharmaceutical industry and the article highlights a number of physicians who engage in such relationships. The article opens with a discussion about Dr. Allan Collins the president of the National Kidney Foundation who has received significant criticism over the amount of money he has received from Amgen, the makers of Erythropoietin and Darbopoietin. Multiple doctors and former employees from the pharmaceutical industry are interviewed and quoted extensively regarding the potential bias found in not only in lectures given to doctors but even in the guidelines written to guide decision making. The slant of the piece is clear especially in light of the sections titled Unknown to Most Patients and A Silent Quid Pro Quo. Nevertheless, it is difficult to argue that the influence that the pharmaceutical industry holds over all of us is not problematic. There’s a certain skepticism that flows through many of us when we hear the terms such as pre-hypertension and pre-diabetes likely coined by a pharmaceutical industry hoping to increase the numbers of patients taking prescription drugs. For those physicians interested in the topic there is an excellent website that clearly shares the perspective expressed in the NY Times article: www.nofreelunch.org.
-Sean Cavanaugh, MD Associate Program Director NYU Internal Medicine Residency Program
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons