181. The Awkward Relationship Between Doctors & Pharmaceutical Companies

10 takeaways from this video:

00:00:10 In 2011, 70% of Americans took at least one prescription drug, over 50% Americans took two prescription drugs, and as much as 4.02 billion prescriptions were written to Americans. (Source: Mayo Clinic)

In 2013, prescription drug spending was at $329.2 billion. (Source: CBS sourcing the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics)

2014′s total drug spending is at $373.9 billion, up 13.1% from 2013. (Source: IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics: Medicines Use and Spending Shifts. Published April 2015. Page 3)

00:00:51 While pharmaceutical companies spend nearly $4 billion dollars annually to overwhelm television-watching Americans with advertisements, all prescription drug commercials close with the legally required, yet conveniently dictatorial “Ask your doctor if (insert drug name here) is right for you” growth hacking pull marketing strategy command, that advertising budget pales in comparision to the $24 billion dollars that are spent annually convincing doctors to prescribe their drugs – a push marketing strategy.

9 out of 10 Big Pharma companies spend more on marketing than they do on actual research and development.

– Source: FiercePharma report: November 6,2014

[EDITOR’S NOTE:

Max Bazerman, Jonathan Baron and Katherine Shonk’s book You Can’t Enlarge The Pie points to a different problem for a lack of pharmaceutical R&D; a cognitive bias commonly known as the omission bias – “the tendency to judge harmful actions as worse, or less moral than equally harmful omissions (inactions) because actions are more obvious than inactions,” specifically that pharmaceutical companies can be sued for the drugs they create and manufacture that hurt people, but cannot be sued for not creating and manufacturing drugs which could help people.]

00:02:58 Officially, the pharmaceutical industry’s typically young, beautiful, and largely inadequately educated (according to Shahram Ahari, a former pharmaceutical sales rep testifying before a special committee on Aging SD-562) drug representatives are hired to “educate doctors,” but that message seems to be lost in translation. In 2012, the US goverment settled a case against Advair’s alleged irresponsible marketing practices, thus allowing the release of a 2001 pharmaceutical sales conference ‘hype session.’

[EDITOR’S NOTE: I was unable to find the original version of the 2001 Sales conference, so please enjoy highlights from ‘Prof. Spira,’ who uses this conference to promote his book.]

00:05:12 While most educated doctors acknowledge this while they consider the sales rep’s pitch, this problem becomes an issue whenever those doctor’s don’t, as in during an interview with Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau, an ‘American filmmaker, yoga instructor, and former pharmaceutical sales representative and co-producer of the 2005 satirical film Side Effects‘ with a political science degree who claimed that she had, on several occasions, met with a physician who would often “bring out a patient chart and ask me what to prescribe for this patient.”

00:06:14 While most educated doctors acknowledge this while they consider the sales rep’s pitch, it’s easy to let them into your office when these typically young, beautiful, and abeit largely uneducated pharmaceutical sales reps come bearing gifts in the form of free drug samples, and even free daily lunches.

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(Source: Following the Script: How Drug Reps Make Friends and Influence Doctors.)

00:07:04 Pharmaceutical companies have become so attuned to their industry that they are even able to buy, monitor, and diffuse up-to-the-minute prescription statistics being written by doctors, both from their own company’s drugs as well as their competitor’s drugs, to their appropriate in-field sales reps who can follow up on doctors who aren’t prescribing the pharmaceutical company’s drugs.

00:07:44 ‘Going off label’ is when doctors prescribe prescriptions for uses beyond the FDA’s approved uses. For example, AstraZeneca was charged with marketing their drug Seroquel – an anti-psychotic drug with dangerous side effects specifically intended for people suffering from bipolar disorder – to pretty much any patient suffering from “sleeplessness, depression, and dementia.” (Source: Lew Morris, Former Chief Council, HHS Office of Inspector General)

“Astrazeneca denied wrong-doing, and paid half a billion dollars to settle the lawsuit… Just about every major drug company has paid money to settle similar charges.”

00:09:31 Even for those doctors who downright refuse to see their drug reps, pharmaceutical companies will identify, approach, pay, and then provide scripted sales pitches to doctors whom the company has identified as a ‘thought leader’ to wine, dine, and pitch the pharmaceutical drugs to other doctors. (Source: Dr. Jerry Avorn, Professor at the Harvard Medical School)

00:11:20 Many pharmaceutical companies have since taken it upon themselves to voluntarily institute policies aimed at cutting down on their sales rep’s aggressive sales strategies, yet despite these self-enacted policies, companies continue being charged with fraud lawsuits for providing kickbacks for a doctor’s faithful prescriptions.

00:13:54 A 2013 clause in the Affordable Care Act now allows patients to log onto http://openpaymentsdata.cms.gov, search their family doctor’s name, and discover whether or not the doctor is or has received perks from pharmaceutical companies.

“Ask your doctor today:

-If s/he’s taking pharmaceutical company money, and if so, what that money is for.

-If s/he has taken any money from the company who makes the drugs s/he has just prescribed for you,

-If his/her taking pharmaceutical company money is right for you, the patient.

Now ask yourself if you’re satisfied with the above answers your doctor gave you.”

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