David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P. wrote: When a great profession and the forces of capitalism interact, drama is likely to result. This has certainly been the case where the profession of medicine and the pharmaceutical industry are concerned.
In response to Blumenthal’s article, Laura A. Lambert, M.D. of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, wrote:
- Blumenthal’s article (Oct. 28 issue) about the complex and controversial relationships between doctors and drug companies should provoke soul-searching on the part of all physicians who rationalize accepting gifts from the pharmaceutical industry.
- The author invokes the social-science literature to illustrate how even the smallest gifts can be influential.
- Despite the confidence expressed by many physicians that they are not influenced by the marketing efforts of pharmaceutical companies, an obvious indictment of their vulnerability is the annual $12 billion to $15 billion pharmaceutical marketing budget.
- Doctors and drug companies justify these relationships by insisting that they benefit patients by means of physician education.
- Blumenthal himself rationalizes that physician education by the pharmaceutical industry may lead to increased dispensing of drugs that are currently under-prescribed, thereby correcting “major adverse consequences for public health.
- If the honest objective of these relationships is to benefit patients, then why are gifts from pharmaceutical companies necessary for physicians to do the right thing?