Melissa Healy of The Los Angeles Times investigates the forced entry of drug manufactures into the doctor-patient relationship. Take a look:
Drug manufacturers do everything in their considerable power to ensure that their brand-name prescription medications are on the lips of patients and in the minds of physicians every time the two meet across an exam table. A growing chorus of critics says their efforts have begun to rewrite the dialogue between patient and doctor, influence physicians' judgments and open the act of prescribing to forces more profit-minded than sacred.
In 2006, drug-makers spent almost $5 billion to reach out to consumers with direct advertising. But the glossy magazine ads and buzz-generating TV spots are just the most visible parts of a campaign to build and nourish markets for brand-name prescription products. The world's pharmaceutical companies spend an estimated $19 billion annually to woo doctors. They sponsor teaching programs and research at universities across the country, gaining goodwill along the way. They give money to patient groups. They hire public relations firms to share patient stories of illness and triumph.
In a nation that consumed $279-billion worth of prescription medications in 2006 -- spending 80% of that on brand-name products -- their efforts appear to be paying off. Americans filling a prescription choose brand-name products 37% of the time, even though three-quarters of all prescription drugs in the U.S. are available in cheaper generics.
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