NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Doctors Give in to Patient Demands for Brand-Name Drugs

January 17, 2013

According to a study published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine, doctors are more likely to prescribe brand-name drugs over lower cost generics when patients request them and when physicians have contacts with drugmakers, says Kaiser Health News.

  • The researchers analyzed data from a survey of 1,891 doctors in 2009 and found that 37 percent of doctors admitted to sometimes prescribing a brand-name drug at a patient's request even though a generic version of the medication was available.
  • They also found that doctors who had received free food and beverages from a drugmaker were more likely to give in to such patient demands.

Dr. Eric Campbell, the study's lead author and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says many physicians often disregard the idea that common marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies influence the way they prescribe medications. But he suggests that it does have an impact.

Campbell and his colleagues also found that compared to those with less experience, physicians who have been in the workforce longer were more likely to engage in this behavior, although it is not clear why.

  • Internists and psychiatrists were the most likely to prescribe the brand-name drugs.
  • Several other specialties, including pediatrics, anesthesiologists, cardiologists and general surgery, were significantly lower.
  • Although his research did not address the variation among the medical specialties, Campbell believes the difference may be due to the diseases each specialty sees and the availability of new drugs used to treat them.

The federal government is working on rules to make clear when drugmakers provide gifts and entertainment to doctors. The Physician Payment Sunshine Act requires that the companies make available to the public a list of payments to doctors, including those for speeches, research and travel expenses. The regulations are still being finalized by administration officials.

Source: Alvin Tran, "Doctors Give in to Patient Demands for Brand-Name Drugs," Kaiser Health News, January 7, 2013. Eric G. Campbell et al., "Physician Acquiescence to Patient Demands for Brand-Name Drugs: Results of a National Survey of Physicians," Journal of the American Medical Association, January 7, 2013.


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