Telling the Complete Story of Physician & Biopharmaceutical Collaboration

Telling the Complete Story of Physician & Biopharmaceutical Collaboration

05.16.13 | By Jenni Brewer

It’s always tough reading biased coverage, especially when reporters continue to slam collaboration between physicians and biopharmaceutical companies. I was particularly taken aback by Roni Caryn Rabin’s treatment of the issue in New York Times’ Well blog this week. Building upon a New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) study, she contends that physicians are manipulated by biopharmaceutical companies, lured by dinners and continuing medical education courses. If she’d checked into other sources, however, and also looked at the dates of the NEJM study, it may have given her the balance needed to tell an accurate story.

Multiple studies show that many factors affect physician prescribing decisions, including where drugs are found on formularies, clinical guidelines and peer information from medical journals and continuing education. And let’s also not forget that the majority of prescriptions filled in the U.S. are for generic medicines – not brand-name. Physicians are highly trained professionals who make treatment decisions on a case-by-case basis, in the best interest of each patient.

Policy & Medicine also covered the NEJM study, but they dug deeper. What did they find? Arguments from the study that are “outdated, incorrect, and biased.” For example, the NEJM authors use evidence of relationships from 2004 to estimate that “83 percent of physicians received gifts from industry” – not only almost a decade ago, but, as Policy & Medicine points out, also predates the most recent changes to the PhRMA Code, changes in the AMA’s ethical policies, rules and standards, and much of the federal guidance and regulations from FDA and HHS-OIG. This is just one example – it’s certainly worth reading their full story to learn more about how these relationships are regulated today (including CME restrictions) and why NEJM’s depiction is misleading.

If you want to force a connection with limited or cherry-picked information, you can, but then you also do a great disservice to the public and to the physicians and biopharmaceutical professionals who collaborate for the sake of better medicines and better communication about treatments. New medicines aren’t possible without physician involvement in clinical research. New safety and risk/benefit information and studies come out constantly on medicines and if your physician isn’t communicating with the biopharmaceutical professionals behind these medicines, you take a chance that your physician is able to stay current by him/herself (a very daunting task with today’s physician workloads).  If you get a chance, take a look at the Partners for Healthy Dialogues website to find out more about the collaborations between biopharmaceutical companies and physicians and how they’re working towards improved health and new medicines.

 

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