Free Lunches Pay off for Drug Companies, Study Shows - NBC News
The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine, reinforces earlier complaints that drug companies were buying loyalty by showering doctors with gifts, promotional items, lunches with often-attractive drug industry representatives and, most notoriously, paid vacations to luxury resorts that were ostensibly for advanced medical education.
Dr. R. Adams Dudley of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues looked at prescribing information for four popular drugs from nearly 280,000 Medicare physicians.
They included the cholesterol-lowering drug rosuvastatin (brand-name Crestor), the blood pressure drugs nebivolol (brand-name Bystolic) and olmesartan medoxomil (Benicar) and the antidepressant desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).
The doctors in the study had received some sort of benefit, nearly all meals, worth $20 or less in which the four drugs were discussed. Doctors frequently attend educational sessions at medical meetings or get briefings over meals from drug representatives.
Those who got four or more meals relating to the four drugs prescribed Crestor nearly twice as often as doctors who didn’t get the free meals; Bystolic more than five times as often, Benicar more than four times as often and Pristig 3.4 times as often, the team found.
Even one meal where the drug was discussed led to higher prescribing rates, the analysis showed.
“Furthermore, the relationship was dose dependent, with additional meals and costlier meals associated with greater increases in prescribing of the promoted drug,” Dudley’s team wrote.