While I did enjoy reading your summary of the updated Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals (“Danger Zone,” September/October 2008), it does sadden me that we as a profession have gotten to this point. I am unaware of any physician who makes any prescribing choices based on what drug is named on his or her pen. When the pen is empty, it is discarded and we reach for another one. The idea that the drug name or company logo is in some way influential in our prescribing practice is ludicrous. I am certain that pharmaceutical company sales data show only small sales increases after these promotional meetings, whether held at resorts or more conservative locations, whether or not there's entertainment, and whether or not there's golf or a baseball game or anything else. They serve only as reminders of the treatment options, their effects are primarily on product name recognition, and the effects are temporary. Customary physician prescribing patterns ultimately prevail. It's time that we as physicians tell the public that our ethical standards remain high, our focus is on patient care and in keeping up with medical information, and that this PhRMA “witch-hunt” has no foundation.
Robert Picciano, MD
Comment via the Web

My dad was a physician and now I coordinate investigator meetings all over the world working for a big pharmaceutical company in New Jersey. I've seen a lot of embossed pens and do not think they make one bit of difference to a busy physician. It seems crazy that these companies seem to be expected to force their meeting departments to look into shorter meetings at cheaper locations with no “resort” aspect. Given that our clients are higher income physicians and researchers, it seems weird to me to house someone at a Holiday Inn who is used to staying at the W hotel. I agree that physicians are the highest of all groups in terms of ethics — a little less PhRMA code shoved down our throat is a good thing. Some of this stuff is just a waste of paper.
Christian
Comment via the Web

Obama's Health Plan

Under the Obama administration, look for greater emphasis on education that makes a difference, more regulations, and more transparency. His plan aims to provide healthcare for all, lower costs, and place a greater emphasis on public health. It will require hospitals and providers to collect and publicly report measures of healthcare costs and quality, including data on medical errors, nurse staffing ratios, hospital-acquired infections, and disparities in care and costs. I hope this move toward transparency will help to alleviate the culture of mistrust that has developed over the years between all parties in the healthcare system. The emphasis on reducing expenditures and the hyper-regulatory environment means that we need to ask ourselves how we can educate the increasing number of healthcare professionals at a reduced cost per professional. How can we work together to see real change in healthcare practices? As President-elect Obama has promised, we will see change. In our industry, this will not be without challenges but I hope the changes will make a positive difference for patients.
Thomas Sullivan
Founder and President
Rockpointe
Columbia, Md.
Blogger,
www.policymed.com

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Danger Zone