On your next visit to your family doctor, upon informing the sawbones of your most unbearable afflictions, it’s likely that the prescription pad will come out and you’ll find yourself on a daily regimen of the latest wonder drug promised to make your existence more comfortable. But, not so fast — for all of the benefits your physician may tell you about a new drug, he may be ignorant of some ghastly side effects.
It’s no secret that doctors in the United States, and many other developed nations, are heavily swayed in their likelihood to prescribe one drug over another (or even any drug at all) by the promotional efforts of pharmaceutical companies. It has even been noted that most medical providers are courted by Big Pharma before they even finish training for their careers.
Unfortunately for you, the patient, the pharmaceutical reps that visit your primary care provider really don’t have your best interest in mind. Rather, they are interested in sweetening a deal with the doc to ensure that as much of the product pushed by their respective company is prescribed as possible. And a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine confirms that Big Pharma reps, like any good salesmen, generally focus only on the positive to close the deal.
A questionnaire filled out by doctors in Canada, the U.S. and France about how drugs were pushed by Pharma reps and the information that was provided showed that information about common or serious side effects and the type of patients who should not use certain medicines was left out 59 percent of the time.
“Laws in all three countries require sales representatives to provide information on harm as well as benefits,” said lead author Barbara Mintzes of the University of British Columbia. “But no one is monitoring these visits and there are next to no sanctions for misleading or inaccurate promotion.”
While Food and Drug Administration regulations required warning labels listing the potential dangers of 57 percent of the medications pushed on doctors, fork-tongued pharmaceutical salespeople only verbally went over risks with doctors 6 percent of the time.
So, next time your physician offers you a solution to your health problems in the form of a magical pill, salve or shot — be sure to ask for a verbal rundown of possible health risks. Because in the end, you’re the only person whose bottom line is your personal well-being.