What Doctors Don’t Know About Drugs Can Cost You

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If your doctor relies on pharmaceutical company representatives for drug information, chances are you are paying more for your prescription drugs.

In a survey of 464 Kentucky primary care physicians, researchers found a correlation between the costs of drugs prescribed and the use of information provided by the reps, who visit physicians to brief them on new products. The prescription medicines that are heavily marketed, the researchers note, often are more expensive than generic drugs of equal effectiveness.

In the survey, published in the Archives of Family Medicine, more than 47% of the doctors said they used information from the representatives monthly; 1.1% said they never used it.


Physicians in academic- or hospital-based practices prescribed lower-cost drugs than those in other practice settings, such as private practice.

The study duplicates findings of previous studies, says Jack Domeischel, a spokesman for Searle Pharmaceuticals, and he says it proves the value of the reps.

The researchers see another take-home point.

“Consumers should be aware the pharmaceutical industry is investing lots to get access to physicians,” says Dr. Eugene Rich of Creighton University in Omaha. By some estimates, the pharmaceutical industry invests up to 40% of revenues on promotional efforts of all types.