According to a recent report in the New York Times, Americans 65 years old and older take an average of 15 prescription drugs each year. This count does not include the many OTC drugs that many seniors also take.
Think about that for a moment. It’s a practice called polypharmacy – the prescribing of many drugs to one person.
Are all of those drugs necessary? And what about the clear dangers of such a practice?
When one visits a physician – one assumes that whatever advice their doctor gives, or prescriptions they write, are based on unbiased knowledge of the benefits and risks.
But are they always?
ProPublica, a respected independent and non-profit news organization, has looked at this question in-depth and discovered pharmaceutical company practices that raise serious doubts about the motivation of some physicians.
In their most recent analysis of the 50 most-prescribed brand-name drugs in Medicare, ProPublica looked at which drugmakers had made payments to doctors in 2016 to see if those payments may have altered physician prescribing habits. The drugs in question are those used to treat conditions such as diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol, hypertension, glaucoma and more.
Here is a summary of their findings:
- Of those 50 drugs, 38 cost more than $1,000 per year.
- For 32 of the drugs, at least 10% of doctors prescribing the drug received payments tied to the drug from the company that made it.
- For 46 of the drugs, doctors who received payments for the drug prescribed more of it compared with doctors who did not receive payments.
- On average, doctors who received payments prescribed 58% more of that drug than doctors who did not.
What was most striking to the investigators was the consistency of the findings and the impact of payments on physician behaviors – across all 50 drugs in their review.
According to Aaron Kesselheim, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an expert in pharmaceutical costs and regulation, no one should be surprised…
“The association (of payments to prescribing behavior) is consistent across the different types of payments. It’s also consistent across numerous drug specialties and drug types, across multiple different fields of medicine. And for small and large payments. It’s a remarkably durable effect. No specialty is immune to this phenomenon.”
Let’s repeat that last part… “No specialty is immune…”
Why does this all matter?
As we stated at the outset – seniors in this country take 15 prescription drugs per year – on average. And it’s a fact that taking that many drugs simultaneously or in close succession often has deleterious effects.
ProPublica’s latest data suggests the possibility that many of those prescriptions are written because physicians enjoy a financial reward for writing them.
Bottom line… next time you visit your doctor and he or she starts talking about a drug he or she wants you to try – be aware there may be more to that advice than meets the eye.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a medical device or drug, call a qualified Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer. A knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected.
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