Docs, Foundations Prescribe End to Pharma Marketing Payoffs

A coalition of academics, advocates and foundations has called for strict limits on conflict-ridden, "direct-to-physician" marketing campaigns by pharmaceutical companies. A typical campaign provides free samples to doctors, accompanied by free lunches for office staff and doctors, while some also sponsor speaker's bureaus and provide gifts and junkets. The campaigns, valued at about $12 billion annually, may lead doctors to prescribe expensive, patented medications in place of equally effective generic drugs. The anti-perk campaign, called "The Prescription Project," seeks to ensure that medication use is based on scientific evidence instead of "Sichuan shrimp" lunches and other goodies, said Jim O'Hara, managing director of policy initiatives at the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the partners. Several academic medical centers, including Yale, University of Pennsylvania and Stanford have already forbidden Big Pharma perks, while others have hesitated out of the fear of losing research money from the companies, according to the Project. Several researchers have documented the effect of such gifts on doctor prescribing patterns.