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Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars each year on marketing prescription drugs and to support the activities of sales representatives who contact doctors. This practice is commonly known as detailing. A lot of investment is directed at drug marketing to doctors who prescribe high volumes of drugs and according to reports, it may influence prescriptions.

Physicians tend to prescribe drugs that drug companies promote to them. Because of this influence on prescriptions, patients have to pay more even if they use prescription discount card. Not to mention they don’t always get the most suitable medications either.

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An analysis of multiple studies in many countries found that information from pharmaceutical companies and drug marketing influenced the decisions that doctors made, and not exactly in a positive way. According to the head of the study Geoffrey Spurling, one couldn’t say that the information from drug companies benefited the prescribing of the doctor, which is what these companies claim. Although a lot of doctors claim that they are not influenced by the drug marketing, after the review, these claims are not validated. Prescriptions are influenced by the drug marketing – this is the fact one must accept at least some of the time, Spurling stated in a telephone interview.

The study found that doctors who accepted briefings from pharmaceutical companies were more likely to prescribe those products. Several studies showed that exposure to pharmaceutical company information led to more frequent prescriptions. No studies found that physicians prescribed a drug less often due to informational or promotional materials. Over half the studies were conducted in United States. Other countries included Australia, Turkey, Estonia, France, Denmark, Canada, and United Kingdom.

Spending Pays Off

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Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on marketing prescription drugs and detailing. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work. Drug industry is the main source of information about drugs for most doctors. Such detailers often invite physicians to certain events or bring lunch to a doctor’s office in order to deliver their briefings.

Spurling signed out a study of over 1,000 general doctors that found that doctors or physicians who met drug sales representatives more often were influenced to prescribe the promoted, more costly drugs. Because of the influence of drug marketing on prescriptions, patients did not get the most suitable drugs, not to mention the affordable ones even with prescription discount card. Furthermore, he cited studies that exposed that prescriptions from doctors were of a lower quality when compared to standard guidelines.

Several steps are required to be taken to get rid of that influence on prescriptions so that the patients get affordable and reliable drugs, even without prescription discount card. The researchers called for regulation on the amounts of money that drug companies may spend on marketing prescription drugs. Doctors also need more information from a number of different sources such as accrediting organizations or universities.

According to Dr. Michael Schoenbaum of NIMH, there has long been concern regarding the influence of drug marketing on prescriptions, particularly the prescription of psychiatric drugs and further steps are needed to steer the outcome in the right direction.