A Second Opinion on Interactions with Physicians

A Second Opinion on Interactions with Physicians

03.28.11 | By Kate Connors

Recently, there has been a spate of misleading media coverage about interactions between biopharmaceutical company representatives and healthcare providers.

In various ways, the bulk of this coverage has depicted these relationships in a negative light, one that is both biased and outdated.

I'd like to take a moment here to explain the value of engagement between companies and providers...to give a second opinion, so to speak.

Given the demands of a medical practice, it can be challenging for physicians to stay current with the latest information that helps them provide the best care possible to their patients. Interactions with representatives from innovative biopharmaceutical research companies help to keep physicians up to date with the latest scientific data, new uses of medicines, possible side effects, emerging risk information, and more.

In order to further ensure that their interactions - and those of their representatives - with physicians are ethical and informative, more than 50 companies have signed onto PhRMA's Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, which was strengthened in 2008.

The Code provides guidance to companies about many facets of company and physician interactions. For example, it stipulates that gifting of items with no educational value to physicians is prohibited, even if they are of minimal value. Companies may provide educational items occasionally, but only if they are connected to a physician's professional responsibilities and if they are not of a "substantial value."

To suggest that physicians' treatment decisions would be compromised by these interactions is an insult to their profession and, indeed, to the integrity of the FDA-regulated information that biopharmaceutical research companies provide - data that reflect many years and billions of dollars worth of research. It is only appropriate that the companies that develop the data are the ones with the expertise to disseminate and discuss it.

Come back tomorrow to discuss this issue further with me when we release the results of a new physician survey.

I, for one, value the judgment of America's physicians. Recent media attention may be controversial, but there's nothing controversial about a physician weighing a wide variety of factors, and taking into account an assortment of information sources, when making a decision to best meet each individual patient's needs.

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