A major pharmaceutical company’s recent decision to stop paying physicians to promote its products and to cease tying sales-representative compensation to the number of prescriptions physicians write is a move in the right direction, says a member of the ACR’s political action committee, RheumPAC.
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But reaction to news reports of the announcement uncovers a deeper issue facing physicians, including rheumatologists: the perception that doctors are paid for every prescription they write, says rheumatologist Chris Morris, MD.
“That’s a sad situation. That’s not anywhere near the truth. We’re not getting paid to prescribe,” says Dr. Morris, who has practiced for nearly 20 years in a three-physician, single-specialty office in Kingsport, Tenn. “I choose medications based on what I think is right for my patient, not because a sales rep gave me a textbook or a better lunch.”
Dr. Morris, who has given talks for pharmaceutical companies on occasion, says he never has done so to “outwardly promote” a specific treatment. He says he doesn’t have a problem with experts or researchers discussing what they have discovered or problems they encountered with a medication.
“Basically, I just want them to give me the ‘4-1-1’ on a medication,” he says. “There are times they overdo it, and times they underdo it.”
More important to Dr. Morris is GlaxoSmithKline’s announcement it will no longer link sales-rep compensation to prescriptions written.
“[Reps] need to take care that they are not trying to ‘hard-sell’ the drug, rather than act as a resource,” he says.
Dr. Morris expects most other players in the industry to follow Glaxo’s lead. He also hopes the industry will redirect its efforts to educate providers and their patients.
“If pharma would channel what they are giving docs to promote drugs instead to having experts educate us about a disease or a disease state in which their drugs can be used, that would make more sense to me,” he says. “A good example: there are tons of physicians who know very little about the correct management of gout. If pharma would provide non–brand-specific treatment options—that is where patients would benefit.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.