Worth a read: Understanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry Interactions

Much has been written about the relationships between the drug industry and physicians.  Headlines blare: "Doctors reap millions for anemia drugs;" "Pills for Patients, Payday for Docs;" "Posing as pals, drug reps sway doctors’ choices." To some, even within our own physician ranks, it appears an insidious relationship exists. Press reports would have you believe most doctors are checking patients with their right hand and looking for a hand-out with their left. Some may; most do not.

Understanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry Interactions
, a new book for which I had the honor of writing the forward, is long overdue. Written by a young physician, Shaili Jain, M.D., a General Adult Psychiatrist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it focuses on a critically important topic for all health professionals who prescribe medicines.

These interactions continue to generate heated debate in academic and public arenas, yet sadly, research shows that physicians and physicians in training remain ignorant of the core issues and poorly trained to face the sophisticated industry promotion which has become ubiquitous in medical environments. This book aims to address this gap in education by providing a single concise resource that explains the essential elements.

Business ethics and medical ethics are different. What Big Pharma, as a business, considers normal, the medical profession considers unethical. But the principles I learned in medical school many years ago — prescribe as few medicines as possible, but when doing, use medicines that are therapeutically effective, safe, and cost the least — hold true today. Yet to curtail the rising cost of health care, everyone must become cost conscious, especially for medicines. No other service or product is purchased so blindly.

The achievements in medicine during the 20th century were spectacular. Vaccines have saved millions of lives and prevented countless suffering. More medicines and discoveries are in progress. To continue that advance, the pharmaceutical industry and the medical professional must work in synergy. The relationship must be completely devoid of conflict of self-interest and greed. And the relationship between the prescriber and drug manufacturer must not be self-serving for either. It is – and should be — all about the patient and the betterment of the health of the world’s population. 

Leonard J. Morse, M.D., Commissioner of Public Health, City of Worcester, Past Member and Chair, Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, American Medical Association; Past President, Massachusetts Medical Society

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