When a doctor prescribes medication, we trust that he or she is doing so because it is in a patient’s best interests. This is especially true if a narcotic or other potentially habit-forming medication is needed in the course of medical care. But what if the prescription was motivated by financial incentives for the doctor instead of the patient’s well-being? Or, what if you knew that the pharmaceutical company had targeted doctors with a history of discipline or inappropriately prescribing medication to promote its products?
A recent New York Times article explores the relationship between Insys Therapeutics, the maker of the addictive and substantially powerful painkiller Subsys, and the physicians it pays to promote its product as a case study of the state of the pharmaceutical industry and its marketing practices.
Targeting Disciplined Doctors
The Times’ investigation revealed that 25 percent of the doctors Insys paid the most to promote Subsys were subject to recent discipline by their states’ licensing boards. This includes one doctor who was disciplined when three of his patients died of overdoses in 2012 from drugs the board believed he had most likely prescribed.
Just the Cost of Doing Business?
Recent years have seen drug manufacturers pay billions of dollars in fines due to the way they market their products. Despite the fact that questionable or even improper marketing tactics cost pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars every year, these fines may not be an effective deterrent. According to Eric G. Campbell, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, the current state of the industry is simply “pay the fines but still make a lot more.”