Monday, November 26, 2007

Pharmaceuticals & Psychiatry

A fascinating look at big pharmaceutical companies and how they enlist doctors as glorified "sales reps" in yesterday's NYT Magazine. The piece was written by Dr. Daniel Carlat, a psychiatrist in Massachusetts.

"On a blustery fall New England day in 2001, a friendly representative from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals came into my office in Newburyport, Mass., and made me an offer I found hard to refuse. He asked me if I’d like to give talks to other doctors about using Effexor XR for treating depression. He told me that I would go around to doctors’ offices during lunchtime and talk about some of the features of Effexor[...] It would be pretty easy[...] I would be paid $500 for one-hour “Lunch and Learn” talks at local doctors’ offices, or $750 if I had to drive an hour. I would be flown to New York for a “faculty-development program,” where I would be pampered in a Midtown hotel for two nights and would be paid an additional “honorarium.”

And later in the piece:

"Several days later, I was visited by the same district manager who first offered me the speaking job. Pleasant as always, he said: “My reps told me that you weren’t as enthusiastic about our product at your last talk. I told them that even Dr. Carlat can’t hit a home run every time. Have you been sick?”

"At that moment, I decided my career as an industry-sponsored speaker was over. The manager’s message couldn’t be clearer: I was being paid to enthusiastically endorse their drug. Once I stopped doing that, I was of little value to them, no matter how much “medical education” I provided."

If you have 15 minutes or so, I strongly encourage you to read this essay by an "insider" into the power of Big Pharma in our society. The passages related to “prescription data-mining” and the millions being made by the A.M.A. are eye-opening. And frightening.

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