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Doctors who were fed meals costing even less than $20 later prescribed certain brand-name pills more often than rival medicines, according to a new analysis published on Monday of a federal database. And in most cases, costlier meals were associated with still higher prescribing rates for Medicare Part D drugs made by the same companies that provided the food.

The findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, are likely to intensify an ongoing debate over the extent to which ties between drug makers and doctors unduly influence medical practice and the nation’s health care costs. The issue has resonated over the years as prices for prescription medicines continue to rise, and many drug companies have paid civil and criminal fines for illegal marketing and kickbacks designed to boost prescribing.


“High rates of brand-name prescribing are a pressing issue for patients and taxpayers,” said Colette DeJong, a coauthor and research fellow at the Center for Healthcare Value at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. She noted there were “great generic options” that physicians could have prescribed instead.

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  • I would like to ask the “holy grail” of physicians at Mass General to explain the 5 mechanisms of action for Bystolic (one of the drugs indemnified in JAMA article). I’m certain they can’t. The lunches provide pay for time to discuss the merits (efficacy, safety, tolerability, costs and proper patient types) for said drug. In the case of Bystolic, every provider who has listened to the message has put themselves and the appropriate patients on it. Ask someone who was once on atenolol and switched to bystolic how it changed there life. The only providers who don’t use Bystolic are the ones who don’t see industry, because low and behold with new Obama care laws, low insurance reimbursements and many of them actually have families they just don’t have time to research on their own. I’m so tired of reading these misleading articles. I feel bad for the providers who actually get educated and make informed decisions on providing excellent care, get chastised by media and academia. I recently came across a younger provider who just came out of residency from a highly reputable university. She “jokingly” said, you are the enemy but was kind enough to give us a few minutes. A few minutes turned into twenty as we were able to introduce to her a “new” product or one that was on the market for over 2 years but was not allowed to be discussed at her “highly” reputable medical school. She was extremely grateful to us, in fact called my rep later that day with a success from switching a patient who was having difficulties with her previous medicine and commented, “I can’t believe this was the first I heard of this medicine. I bet that mom and child were grateful that this young provider gave us time, time that is often begat from providing a $9-12 lunch for their time.
    Please excuse any typos or grammar errors as I am typing this in a window two boxes wide on my phone.

    • Very gallant of you to defend your own livelihood, but given your disclosed bias and the small-sample anecdotal evidence you cite, this is hardly a refutation of the peer-reviewed study cited in the original article.

    • Actually, Mark it’s you job to memorize the five mechanisms of Bystolic for the doctor, and by the time you have pulled the fifth one out your memory bank the doctor will have found them in his Washington Manual of Therapeutics as he walks down the hall with the donut you provided. I do applaud you for trying to introduce the 45th beta blocker into a market that has been thoroughly genericized.

  • The comments from the major pharmaceuticals all read like lawyer generated disclaimers.
    Medicare should not only be “allowed” to negotiate drug prices, they should be required to do so.
    The politicians and the lobbyists are a much bigger problem than the doctors. The system is rigged against the consumers.

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