Is Your Doctor’s Advice Rigged by Big Pharma Profits?

The connection between the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies and the healthcare industry can no longer be ignored. Corruption has distorted the entire healthcare system in significant ways, and this has led to sub-optimal care for patients. Researchers at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice have shed some light on the ways in which financial interests have influenced medical research and the drugs being prescribed by doctors. This influence not only impacts the quality of care patients receive but also drives up costs, waste, and harm.

Finance Dictates Research Activities

The most significant problem lies in the area of medical research. Researchers are biased when they investigate pharmaceuticals because their studies depend on drug company financing. Funding dries up if they get negative results, and therefore, researchers are motivated to design studies that prove the effectiveness of drugs, even if those drugs are essentially worthless.

Moreover, the studies on new drugs are often poorly designed and fail to show whether the drugs being tested are any better than the older, cheaper, and more widely used drugs. As the Dartmouth researchers, Glyn Elwyn and Elliott Fisher, note: “We do not know when healthcare decisions are guided by sound interpretations of the evidence and whether patients are engaged in the process.”

The Manufacturing of Consumer Demand for Drugs

Pharmaceutical companies also manipulate consumer demand for their products through advertising. In many cases, these advertisements push drug use that is unnecessary and can cause potentially dangerous side effects.

This manufacturing of demand by pharmaceutical companies further fuels the profit-driven aspects of the healthcare system, taking it further away from being an industry focused on the well-being of patients.

A Lack of Trusted Relationships

The insidious influence of financial interests on the healthcare system has led to a lack of trust between healthcare professionals and patients. The researchers explain: “Solutions to these problems are visible but will be difficult to introduce unless there is a much wider recognition that healthcare has become less about well-founded, trusted relationships between healthcare professionals and patients.”

Instead, the healthcare system has begun to resemble a profit-driven service industry where commercial interests drive the decisions being made and influence the entire value chain.

Policy Changes and Educating Consumers as Solutions

Although recognizing the problem is a crucial first step, changes need to be made at every level, from policymakers to individuals who are taking prescription medications. To curb the influence of financial interests on medical research, regulations must be put in place to ensure unbiased, transparent research studies are conducted. These studies should focus on the best interests of the patients without interference from outside influences.

Simultaneously, medical professionals should be educated on the consequences of financial influences on the healthcare industry, making them more aware of these problems and enabling them to make better, less biased decisions when prescribing medication.

Consumers themselves must be educated on the issues related to pharmaceutical advertising and should be encouraged to discuss their healthcare options with their doctors. By being aware of misleading advertising and not falling victim to these tactics, they can make more informed decisions about their healthcare.

In the end, the healthcare industry must shift its focus away from profits and back to the patient. For this, the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and the healthcare industry must be scrutinized and held to a higher standard. It is imperative for the well-being of all patients that financial interests no longer dictate best practices and provision of care.