The California Assembly is currently considering a bill, Senate Bill 790, which would put in place severe restrictions around gifts or other financial benefits that pharmaceutical companies can give to medical professionals as part of marketing activities.
Not only will the bill limit physician access to important information about new treatments, but it also insults the integrity of every physician practicing in California and is a threat to the patient-physician relationship, which is the heart of effective health care.
My personal experiences with pharmaceutical companies, like those of many of my colleagues, have been positive and productive. Before I will even consider writing a prescription for a new drug, I ask the manufacturer to provide me much-needed education and research conducted about the treatment. Their research scientists have spent full business days with my staff and me answering our questions and educating us firsthand about their drug. After listening and giving serious consideration to the risks and benefits of a drug, I have, on at least two occasions in the past, flat-out told the pharmaceutical company that I was not interested. That is why I have the “MD” after my name. My medical degree – and education, training and lifetime of experience – demand that I make decisions about treatment and prescription medication just as I make every other medical decision: thoughtfully and meticulously, and with only the best interest of the patient in mind.
SB790 comes on the heels of an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which found that physicians who worked for hospitals that restricted pharmaceutical industry marketing also prescribed fewer brand name medications, a conclusion as predictable as it is unhelpful. Physicians in such circumstances are themselves already conflicted – they are paid by hospitals and given bonuses for spending fewer dollars. In fact, their computers often won’t even allow…