Did drug firms buy your lunch?
There's a move afoot in Charleston to force drug manufacturers to report how much they spend on consumer advertising and gifts to doctors. We certainly think that's a good idea.
You don't have to watch much TV these days to see commercials for prescription drugs. Half the time you can't even tell what the drug is supposed to treat, though the ads show lots of smiling people who are dancing and having a fine time, all their ills having magically disappeared. And, you wonder why so many people, particularly young ones, mistakenly think drugs will make them happier!
The point of such advertising is to push a person to ask his or her doctor for that miracle prescription. We bet there's not a doctor in America who hasn't had patients insist they need this or that drug if they are to go on. Through such ads, the pharmaceutical industry is creating a need for its products, even encouraging people to self-diagnose and self-medicate. In the end, the consumer is picking up the tab.
Companies also wine and dine doctors in various ways, from golf trips to lunches and dinners for medical personnel. Some companies put medical providers on the payroll to represent them or make grants and payments to doctors in addition to the other perks. Again, the intent is simply to entice doctors to prescribe a company's medications.
A coalition of groups, including churches and unions, is urging the West Virginia Legislature to strengthen rules that require pharmaceutical firms to report how much they spend on marketing. They also want the companies to report and explain the money and gifts they give to prescribers.
Remember, we're talking about drugs that must be ordered by doctors, not over-the-counter medicines. There's no good reason why people struggling to pay their medical bills should face a higher price for prescriptions because drug companies are trying to get a bigger share of the market or convince a doctor to prescribe their products more often.