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Doctors are Influenced by Drug Makers

doctors and business people sitting around a table
August 26, 2015 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Being a doctor isn’t one job. It’s four, at least.

Some medical professionals are responsible for everything from payroll to marketing research to purchasing.

All while giving patients the best care possible.

Little wonder, then, that even while fulfilling continuing education requirements, lots of cutting-edge research never makes its way to the desks of doctors.

And where those gaps in knowledge form, pharmaceutical companies step in to fill the space.

Most doctors have your best interests at heart. But they are receiving a torrent of information from one source…and just a trickle from others.

And that can lead to less than the optimal care for you.

Today, let’s take a look at how most doctors get their information–and how you can supplement their knowledge gaps with research of your own.

A Deluge Of Information—And Cash

Last year, pharmaceutical companies spent $4.5 billion on advertising.

In fact, Pfizer alone was the 7th-largest advertiser in America. That placed it above famous, saturated names like Toyota and Verizon.

And that’s just the money spent directly on consumer-facing advertisements. The commercials—mostly made up of warnings about side effects—designed to get patients to ask their doctor for a prescription.

Arguably, that’s a small slice of the marketing pie.

Because, as we all know, pharmaceutical companies also send out squadrons of drug representatives to influence and persuade doctors.

It’s very rare that anything untoward happens. Usually, the biggest treat is a fistful of samples.

But here’s the thing: Drug reps are a little like political lobbyists. They don’t corrupt the system through bribery. They merely give a strong voice to one side.

For most doctors, that’s the only side they hear. And only getting one part of the story can, of itself, be corrupting.

That’s why about a third of doctors have restrictions on even talking to drug reps.

I seldom see them—not because I’m against all medicines, or because I don’t want to hear about the newest advances.

In fact, there are some conditions—like some diabetic conditions, or dealing with parasites—that are almost always best dealt with through pharmaceutical medicine.

Rather, it’s because I place a very high value on studying all possible treatments. My patients want to avoid drugs as much as possible, and so do I.

And when I do prescribe drugs, I tend to favor generics. They are cheaper, yes—but more importantly, they’re well tested.

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There simply is no substitute for a wide-scale rollout of a new drug. And if you participate in that rollout, you are, quite simply, a guinea pig.

That can sometimes be a very dangerous thing—as it was in the case of Vioxx, for example.

Because I turn to natural remedies first, and generics second, I’m not a big moneymaker for the drug business.

The pharmaceutical companies know that—and so they rarely bother sending anyone my way.

Know Your Options

In my entire professional career, I’ve met one oncologist—just one—who prescribes curcumin to his patients.

That’s not because curcumin doesn’t work. Study after study has shown how effective it is at treating a whole host of maladies.

Rather, it’s because very few doctors have time to read those studies. And no one is knocking on their door to tell them about it. There is no “Curry Institute of Health.”

Pfizer, however, has an entire library of chemotherapies it would like to sell.

And that is how we wind up with an overprescribed, overdrugged society.

With that in mind, I’m going to recommend something that will sound a little unconventional today.

But it’s extremely important.

Take control of your own care.

I don’t mean you should go on WebMD and diagnose yourself.

You may know your body best, but research on the Internet can’t compare to the expertise of disease that doctors receive in medical school.

However, treatment is another matter.

At some point, we’re all going to get sick.

When that day comes for you, get a good diagnosis from a good doctor. Hear their recommended course of treatment.

But do your own research on current treatment and studies as well. The odds are good—unless you’re dealing with a very narrow specialist—you’ll come across something your doctor doesn’t yet know.

You may or may not be a good candidate. But it’s worth discussing other options with your doctor as you discover them.

Drugs are not inherently bad. But most of us only want them as a last resort. That’s a healthy impulse—follow it, and explore other avenues with your doctor.

No one else will. There is no rep for healthy lifestyle changes or natural remedies. It falls to you.

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