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Even our trusted doctors have a price? March 21, 2007

Posted by Meg in agency theory, Business-Society Issues, pharmaceutical, Public Interest.

A set of records from the state of Minnesota show that certain pharmaceutical companies are paying high profile doctors and making substantial donations to clinics throughout the United States. This information became apparent due to a Minnesota law stating that drug companies must disclose all payments made to doctors. Patient advocacy groups are concerned about this revelation and the influence that various drug companies may, in fact, have over doctors.

Since 2005, drug companies have paid health care workers $57 million in the state of Minnesota alone. Most doctors, however, assure the public that these payments do not influence their treatment of patients, but are merely to give marketing talks. Some even state that close ties between doctors and drug companies enable those in the medical field to be more educated about various prescription drugs and more able to advise their patients on whether or not and how to use these drugs in a healthy way.

Research exists, however, to indicate that doctors with a close relationship to various drug companies often prescribe more modern (as well as expensive) drugs that may not be in the best interest of patients. Due to public scrutiny of various pharmaceutical companies and the FDA as well as reasonable evidence indicating that numerous medications are over-prescribed, these records may concern more patients who wonder whether their doctor’s advice is in the patient’s best interest or the doctor’s.



1. Janine - March 21, 2007

This blog is particularly discomforting. To think that doctors may not always put the patient’s best interests in mind is not something that anyone likes to hear, but the truth of the matter is, this is much more common than we like to admit. It seems like most things nowadays are businesses in disguise. The medical field, higher education, and many more. Here are fields that are for the good of the people, but when it comes down to it, it’s all business.

2. Abby - March 24, 2007

I agree with Janine, it is unnerving – money can control everything. At Student Health here, they may be giving out the same medication with any of several different names or companies attached to them.

On a little tangent – some companies, that produce AIDS medications have variations of the drugs, and the different costs produce different results, so not everyone is getting what they should be getting…. I wonder how far into the general drug market this goes.

3. Jordi - March 25, 2007

Can you get the MN article? Any links to research?

4. Jordi - March 25, 2007

I added agency theory to the categories because I thought it was interesting angle. Agency problems exist when a principal delegates authority to an agent who has more knowledge than the principle. It originates to explain shareholders and managers. Does it apply here? What are possible solutions from agency theory and are they appropriate here?

5. Elaine - March 25, 2007

It is scary to know that we put our health and lives in the hands of other human beings, and human beings can be motivated by monetary rewards. I usually give doctors the benefit of the doubt, because afterall, they save lives on a regular basis. All my doctors have been friendly and caring. I remember a few times when doctors specifically mention generic drugs to help me get the best deal for my money. Until I come across a doctor with other intentions, I will continue to listen to my doctor’s advice.

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