Dr. Jerald Kreisman, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at St. Louis University, in Defending the Drugmakers writes “Over the past several years, the pharmaceutical industry has replaced managed care as the Bad Boys of Health Care. Public opinion, government oversight, and litigation pressures have obliged the industry to adopt a litany of mea culpa declarations.” Indeed “Big Pharma” has become analogous to big oil, big money and everything else that’s big and bad. Alongside that physicians, many of whom interact with drug company representatives, are portrayed as the mindless minions of an industry-led conspiracy to harm patients. Notwithstanding the patent absurdity of this characterization the drum beat is getting louder and louder.
Doctors are not devoid of critical thinking skills. Moreover, there’s no convincing evidence that physician-industry interactions result in net harm to patients’ health. Immediately comes the shrill cry “What about Vioxx?” Yes, the promotion of Vioxx has been linked to harm. What is not known is how this balances against the effects of promotion of clearly beneficial yet underutilized therapies such as DVT prophylaxis and beta blockers and ACE inhibitors for heart failure.
Finally, haven’t we heard about enough of the tired old argument that doctors succumb to drug company deception because of their dependence on free trinkets such as pens and note pads? Where’s the evidence for that argument? (I’ve done without for seven years and couldn’t care less about ‘em). I’m much more concerned that continued industry bashing will lead to an erosion of support for CME and the ultimate end of resources like Medscape and emedicine.