Despite efforts to educate the public about the financial benefits of generic drugs over brand-name medicine, a study released this week shows that many doctors continue to honor patient requests for the more expensive ones even though they are not more effective.
“Approximately 4 of 10 physicians report that they sometimes or often prescribe a brand-name drug to a patient when a generic is available because the patient wanted it,” concludes a national survey in the journal Jama Internal Medicine. “These numbers suggest that the unnecessary costs associated with this practice to the health care system could be substantial.”
“Prescribing brand-name drugs when generic drugs are available generates unnecessary medical expenditures, the costs of which are borne by the public in the form of higher copayments, increased health insurance costs, and higher Medicare and Medicaid expenses.”
The cost difference between a brand name drug and its generic version can be substantial, sometimes 10 times or more.
Part of the issue is that the hundreds of millions of dollars that drug companies spend annually to market their drugs works. Consumers see enticing ads for brand name drugs so they request it. Many doctors have close relationships with industry representatives who wine and dine them.
“We found that certain physician-industry relationships were significantly, positively associated with accommodating patient requests for brand names,” says the study.
“Physicians who received industry-provided food and/or beverages in the workplace and samples were significantly more likely to accede to patient demands for brand-name drugs. Also, physicians who meet with industry representatives to stay up to date are more like to give in to patient requests for brand names. These findings are likely the result of the fact that industry gifting of food and beverages coincides with “up-to-date meetings” with drug representatives; thus, these factors work together to increase the likelihood that physicians will prescribe a brand name and clearly serve a marketing function.”
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