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2002-06-26

Hooked Ondrug Companies: As the Pharmaceutical Industry Spends Billions On Gifts for Doctors to Persuade Them to Prescribe Their Medicines, a Debate On Industry Influence in Medicine

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Last week on Democracy Now! we reported on a multi-million dollar Republican fundraiser hosted by President Bush and underwritten by the pharmaceutical industry. Drug companies paid as much as $250,000 for a seat at the legislative table. Just two days before the drug gala, Republicans unveiled a prescription drug plan backed by the industry. Just one day after the gala, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the plan.

But legislators are not the only ones hooked on drug companies. Doctors are also targets. Pharmaceutical companies shower physicians with gifts, lunches, concert tickets and free vacations to promote their products. Some marketers pay doctors to write so-called 'research articles' on their drugs in medical journals. In some cases, the companies hire marketing firms to write the first drafts.

These tactics have prompted a growing chorus of criticism from doctors and patient advocates who say the junkets erode the integrity of the medical profession. National organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians have recently issued guidelines regarding these gifts.

Democratic Governor Howard Dean of Vermont recently signed a bill that required drug companies to report to the state any gifts to doctors worth more than $25.

Guests:

  • Dr. Howard Dean, Governor of Vermont.
  • Dr. Robert Goodman, Assistant Professor of Clinical MedicineColumbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and founder of the No Free Lunch campaign.
  • Dr. John Kelly, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Senior Vice President for Scientific and Regulatory Affairs.
  • Jaya Agrawal, Former President, American Medical Student Association (AMSA). She is a medical student and activist who is taking the "No Free Lunch" campaign to physicians in training.
  • Dr. Richard Clarfeld, medical director of the Seattle Polyclinic. He started billing pharmaceutical representatives for visiting his staff physicians.

Related links:

Music:

  • I Want You To Hurt Like I Do ­ Randy Newman, Land of Dreams (Reprise Records).
  • God’s Away On Business ­ Tom Waits, Blood Money (Anti Records).

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