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Breakup of physician, drug company relationship could improve health care, cut cost
Date:5/20/2013

PORTLAND, Ore. A new report suggests that improved health care and significant reductions in drug costs might be attained by breaking up the age-old relationship between physicians and drug company representatives who promote the newest, more costly and often unnecessary prescription drugs.

This system, which has been in place for decades, at one time benefitted doctors by keeping them up to date on new medications, and always provided generous amounts of "free" samples to get patients started on the newest drugs, as well as other supplies and gifts.

But it's actually a powerful marketing process into which the pharmaceutical industry pours tens of billions of dollars a year, with more than 90,000 drug representatives providing gifts and advice. There is one drug representative for every eight doctors in the United States. This doesn't necessarily serve the best interests of the patient in terms of economy, efficacy, safety or accuracy of information, experts say.

In one of the first reports of its type titled "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" - researchers from Oregon State University, Oregon Health & Science University and the University of Washington outlined the deliberate process that one central Oregon medical clinic went through to remove drug company representatives from their practice. It explored the obstacles they faced and the ultimate, successful result. The findings were just published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

The study found that avoiding conflicts of interest and becoming "pharma-free" is possible, but not easy.

"This is a culture change, one that's already happening but still has a ways to go, especially in smaller private practices," said Dr. David Evans, now with the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington, and previously a physician at the Madras, Ore., clinic featured in the article.

"The relationship between physicians and drug c
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Contact: Daniel Hartung
hartungd@ohsu.edu
503-494-4720
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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