Patients Wary of Doctors' Pharma Relationships

Most U.S. patients think drug companies influence their doctors, a survey says.

ByABC News
August 23, 2010, 6:19 PM

Aug. 24, 2010— -- Many patients taking prescription drugs believe that pharmaceutical companies have too much influence over their physicians' prescribing practices, according to a new survey.

A telephone survey by Consumer Reports found that the majority of those currently taking medications -- 69 percent -- had such concerns.

About half of the medication users believed that their doctors were too eager to write a prescription when other non-pharmacological options are available.

Read this story on

"On the one-to-one level, many patients trust their physicians," Dr. Lee Green of the University of Michigan told MedPage Today. "But I see a lot of skepticism out there, and it's well-founded."

Dr. Jerome Kassirer, professor of medicine at Tufts University in Boston and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, said trust between a doctor and a patient "is absolutely essential in getting patients to believe what their doctors are telling them... Any kind of loss of trust between doctor and patient is deleterious."

That could mean patients don't heed instructions about taking their medications, according to physicians interviewed by MedPage Today.

The findings come from a telephone survey of 2,022 patients in the United States, with the final analysis based on 1,154 responses from those adults currently taking prescription drugs.

On average, those patients reported routinely taking four different medications.

Almost half of the patients taking medications who were surveyed (47 percent) thought that gifts from pharmaceutical companies influenced their doctor's choice of drugs.

Most of them (81 percent) were concerned that physicians engaged in practices that resulted in being rewarded by pharmaceutical companies for writing lots of prescriptions for the company's drugs -- a practice that is illegal, according to Dr. Randy Wexler of Ohio State University.

"Unfortunately, I have found this fear expressed in my own research," he told MedPage Today.

But Green said this practice is more likely to occur among specialists because their smaller numbers makes it easier to keep track of the drugs and devices they prescribe.