The doctor alliance is a tricky one! On one hand, the each doctor takes a Hippocratic oath swearing to practice medicine ethically. On the other hand, you’d have to think about it logically. Suppose a doctor were faced with the notion of deciding whether prescribing medication would be just as ethical as coaching you on your diet? The medication would more than likely bring you back to health so wouldn’t it be ethical to prescribe the meds? In a recently written article: Doctors and Pharmaceutical companies, we discussed the fact that pharmaceutical reps offer doctors cash, trinkets as well as trips to tropical destinations in order for the doctors to prescribe their medications.
The Doctors and pharmaceutical companies (see bottom of this article for link) article exposed period in my own life when I was prescribed meds for high blood pressure Soon after, I was able to regulate my blood pressure by regulating my diet. I can’t say with absolute certainty that the doctor who gave me samples of blood pressure medication did it because they simply wanted to promote for a pharmaceutical company. In fact, I did need to do SOMETHING to bring my blood pressure back in line.
However, I do think that the doctors involved could have done more by the way of educating me and trying alternatives (such as diet changes) first. Pharmaceutical companies have been investigated as they some times walk a fine line between what is and is not ethical. Gene Cordoba (former rep) shares his experience in the industry. He states that he has heard reps boast of providing sports tickets to doctors, buying televisions for waiting rooms and even providing tickets to tropical destinations. Cordoba had much success in his days as a rep. His tactics included the simple lunches for the office.
However, if there were a doctor who refused to see Cordoba, he would target those around him. One unique tactic was sponsoring a little league baseball team or bowling league. Soon, the doctor would feel obligated to at least give Cordoba 10 minutes of time to share news of his drugs. Ten minutes is all that is needed when combined with the fact that Cordoba is shelling out money to help support the little league baseball team that the doctor’s son plays for!
There are plenty of examples of companies who are or have been under investigation for unethical tactics. Bottom line is that you are still dealing with individuals (doctors and reps). When there are individuals making decisions and money, lunches and vacations are offered, you will have individuals who will take those gifts and prescribe medication to you as a result.
What should you do?
1) Always ask questions. Don’t take any medications without asking why is this my only option.
2) Do your research. Google is a wonderful place that you can easily find more information about drugs, doctors, your condition and pharmaceutical companies.
3) Get a second opinion. You may be surprised at the difference in opinion.
Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about his relationship with the detail men/pharmaceutical reps of the drugs he prescribes to you. When doctors know your line of thinking and that you are knowledgeable and paying attention to these things, he may be less likely to prescribe unless there is an absolute need, he feels that this is the best option for you AND he has no ulterior motives.