HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Saturday, January 8, 2005

Overprescription by Design

Rx_bottles Yesterday's Washington Post had an editorial that assails the drug industry and physicians and the sometime unholy alliance forged around aggressive marketing schemes that induce docs to overprescribe medicines.  The writer notes that despite guidelines from the AMA (see Op. E-8.061 & clarification statment) and PhRMA (and, it should be added, DHHS' OIG), "the economics of the drug market make it difficult to prevent abuse. It costs billions to invent a drug but little to produce it, so there's a huge incentive to pump up sales volumes; this creates a temptation to push the ethical boundaries. Moreover, the medical market presents a classic case of informational asymmetry. Patients generally don't know enough to second-guess doctors, so doctors can get away with overprescribing medicines.  How far such overprescription occurs is hard to know."  I was geting at the same point when I reported a  week ago about some indictments out of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The editorial then goes "[o]ne level up in the food chain" and criticizes "the even more disturbing [practice of] medical researchers whose opinions are likely to influence other physicians routinely accept speaking and consulting fees from the firms whose drugs they pronounce on."  [tm]

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