A patient’s most precious resource is often his or her own knowledge. When patients conduct research on potential care providers, they easily empower themselves with information available within the public record. Unfortunately, too few patients opt to take advantage of this readily available information. However, patients will soon be provided with yet another incentive to do so. Beginning next year, patients will be able to research the ties that potential care providers have to Big Pharma.
This link may or may not affect a physician’s care of his or her patients. However, as the number of dangerous drugs on the market grows, it is critical that patients remain aware of whether their physicians have ties to the companies that produce them. Then, they can be better prepared to voice their concerns with their physicians or switch providers if a physician prescribes them a dangerous drug manufactured by a pharmaceutical company that showers that physician with gifts.
It is not legal to accept gifts in exchange for promising to prescribe medication to patients who should not be given that specific drug for their condition. However, this practice does occur. In addition, physicians who are courted by pharmaceutical companies may feel pressured to prescribe their medications for uses that are both approved and off-label. By remaining aware of a physician’s ties to Big Pharma, a patient can remain appropriately critical when prescribed potentially dangerous drugs manufactured by given corporations.
The public database chronicling physician ties to Big Pharma will be made available to the public in the fall of 2014. Until then, patients will need to ask their physicians about their pharmaceutical ties and hope that their physicians will be appropriately forthcoming.