In the Feb. 2nd issue of the New York Times given to me, an editorial questioned the practice of doctors receiving gifts from the pharmaceutical industry and medical device manufacturers. The editorial described how an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association clearly stated that current guidelines against gifts, free samples and promotional incentives “are far too weak”, and these practices should be prohibited.
The Times editorial stated that such proposals “are hardly onerous,” and added, “It is long past time for leading medical institutions and professional societies to adopt stronger ground rules to control the noxious influence of industry money on what doctors can prescribe for their patients”.
Sounds good, so far.
But the followup Letter to the Editor by Ken Johnson, a senior vice president at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, was enough to make you puke.
He stated that restricting the free samples given to doctors would be “unfortunate and could negatively affect patients who rely upon the $16 billion worth of medicines distributed each year.”
Uhh, Mr. Johnson, I don’t doubt that there are medications which save the life of many folks, and are beneficial. But the fact that patients “rely” on $16 billion worth of medicines is a crock in itself, since SO many of those prescribed medicines, like the lousy T4-only thyroid medications, DON’T WORK, or cause side effects WORSE than the condition they were treating. Additionally, there are a plethora of natural or safe supplements which can create the same GOOD effect of some medications, WITHOUT the side effects. My husband, for example, used to be on Celebrex, and now gets the same great relief by being on 2 capsules of Ginger Root a day. He also used to be on Statins, but now keeps his Cholesterol down by using ground Flax Seed and Flax oil.
Mr. Johnson continued it his reply: “We believe that pharmaceutical companies should not offer or provide anything to doctors that would interfere with the independence of their prescribing practices,” but, “clearly, pharmaceutical marketing benefits patients.” He concludes, “It also enables doctors to learn about new therapies and diagnostic tools,” and, in the end, “knowledge is the best medicine of all.”
Mr. Johnson, we as patients have seen it CLEARLY demonstrated that your free samples and incentives DO INTERFERE with independent thinking of our doctors. They give us the Synthroid prescriptions which you have so aptly promoted, and we still have hypo symptoms. When we complain of continuing symptoms, they throw out a couple of those free anti-depressants you give them, with a prescription to follow…or they cast out those prescription papers for Statins when our Cholesterol is too high from being on the inferior T4-only meds. Or they toss us a few packets of anti-inflammatory meds when we ache and hurt from being on the inferior T4-only medications you promoted like the ads on your free notepads and pens.
And yes, knowledge is the best medicine of all–knowledge that many medications you blindly promote have toxic side effects, or don’t work, or there are MUCH better alternatives.
Pharmaceutical marketing, Mr. Johnson, has mostly benefitted the linings of your pockets, and has made thyroid patients like us sicker, and has made our doctors robotic-thinking lackeys who seem to think they are “doctoring” when they throw us your latest pills. And that mindless way of practicing medicine is failing the oath to “do no harm”.