Pharmaceutical sales are coming under criticism based on what appear to be legitimate but rare abuses of pharmaceutical salespeople promising more from a drug than they should and doctors allowing themselves to be pressured into prescribing. Unfortunately, these isolated incidents are being held up as evidence of the need for vast new government intrusion and regulation of the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing practices. While certainly well intentioned, these efforts are likely to negatively affect doctors and patients.
A Pound of Cure: How Academic Detailing Could Limit Access to Pharmaceuticals
Of particular concern is the new policy of government funding academics to travel to doctors’ offices to encourage the use of generics and other less expensive medications. This policy is part of the comparative effectiveness research mandated by the Obama Administration’s health care law. These efforts are often intended to contradict the advertising and marketing – the free speech – of pharmaceutical representatives whose speech is already regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The policy also has potential to line the pockets of academics with public money, part of which is contributed by pharmaceutical companies and would leave those companies in the untenable position of paying for what amounts to marketing their competitors’ products. Finally, this program risks preventing patients from benefiting from the latest pharmaceutical technology.
The federal health reform law, through its comparative effectiveness mandate, threatens to push everyone into a cheaper but potentially less effective generic drug regime.