It is becoming more and more widespread for doctors to receive payments from pharmaceutical companies for prescribing certain medications. The drug companies claim that doing so simply compensates doctors for their time in reporting on patient care and the outcome of the use of certain medications. Doctors may also like to have these kinds of relationships with drug companies because they can give their patients earlier access to new and innovative medical drug treatments.
But are doctors primarily concerned with earning an extra buck? If so, they may be doing so without the knowledge of their patients and placing their patients at risk of a medication error which could result in personal injuries if the medication was not necessary or not in the patient’s best interest.
Take for example the story of a woman who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her doctor prescribed a medication that she found to be very painful and that was affecting her quality of life. After each injection of the medication she was unable to walk unassisted.
Instead of discontinuing the use of the medication, her doctor then placed her in a group to monitor her medication usage. When she found out that the monitoring firm was related to the pharmaceutical company that made the medication, she feared that she was really being used as a guinea pig without her knowledge. To her alarm she then discovered that her doctor in fact had received several hundred thousand dollars in payments from the drug company.
The key here might be public disclosure. Patients should certainly be made aware of drug company payments to their doctors. By doing so, patients will be placed on alert that the doctor is receiving compensation for their treatment by the drug companies. While doing so does not necessarily place a patient at risk, the inherent conflict of interest and potential for abuse is obvious.
Was this woman’s medication causing her harm? Was the pressure to take a risky medication by her doctor medical malpractice? Was her doctor acting with her well-being in mind? These are questions that may yet go unanswered for this particular woman. Connecticut residents who may be in a similar situation and who have become concerned about the possibility of a medication error should seek help immediately.
Source: Pioneer Press, “Minneapolis woman with MS cut ties with doctor who received money from drug companies,” Christopher Snowbeck, Dec. 26, 2011