If you wait around the doctor’s office long enough on any given day, you’ll see one of them. They arrive smartly dressed in business suits and they always are dragging one of those briefcases on wheels behind them. No matter how busy the office is, they are allowed right in to see the doctor.
The briefcases are filled with drug samples. Sometimes they also contain free pens, coffee cups, notepads and coupons for free meals at restaurants. I once worked as a marketing manager for a small restaurant chain and if we were able to get a pharmaceutical rep we literally drooled.
Sometimes restaurants will actually pay them a bonus as well as giving them free food for the doctors. Sometimes the magic briefcase also contains airline tickets for free trips to exotic places for “medical seminars.” And if you’re one of 17,000 doctors in the United States, the briefcase might also contain a paycheck.
According to Medical News Today: “Although 74% of Americans take a dim view of doctors receiving payments from pharmaceutical companies, over 17,000 physicians are doing just that, and some of them are receiving huge quantities, a new investigation from ProPublica reveals.”
The majority of the health care professionals who receive money from the pharmaceutical companies are doctors, but other health professionals like nurse practitioners, dieticians and pharmacists get paid as well.
One doctor in Nevada received over $303,000. Most of the other doctors on the list received in the area of between $200,000 to $300,000. So far seven of the pharmaceutical companies revealed that they paid doctors “consulting fees.”
The companies that volunteered the information include, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Cephalon and AstraZeneca. The other companies on the list were forced to reveal their pay to doctors.
The pharmaceutical companies know where their bread is coming from. They try to be exposed to the doctors early on right through medical school. As a matter of fact, they sometimes pay to have the medical schools built in the first place.
There’s nothing illegal about the pharmaceutical companies paying doctors and it’s good that they have a close relationship with them. As long as the doctors don’t end up in their pockets.
The prescription drug business is a multi-billion dollar business and the competition between companies is very tight. And now there are also cheaper generic drugs to compete with, so it’s natural that the companies would want the doctors thinking of their product when they reach for that prescription pad. But whether this is a good thing, I’m not sure.