In the best world … when it comes to Health cover you would hope that for everyone that they would be covered for whatever health issue that they had … rich or poor, whether it be treated by doctors, drugs in a hospital or by a allied heath professional in a private office or nurse in a health centre .. that between government services and private health insurance you would be covered … Unfortunately this is NOT the case. Our health system is inequitable and funnels money into the areas that it knows best … doctors, drugs and hospitals and to the areas of health that have the largest and most powerful health lobbyist … those of the Medical Professionals and Pharmaceutical Companies.
You may think I am just an angry parent (with a very small slice of the Health Funding Cake) and just venting … well that might be true to a extent but it is not the whole story. I question how much influence that large pharmaceutical companies have over both the medical profession and the government in influencing where the limited health dollar is spent.
How influential is the Pharmaceutical Industry?
“The combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together ($33.7 billion) [in 2002]. Over the past two decades the pharmaceutical industry has moved very far from its original high purpose of discovering and producing useful new drugs. Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, this industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the US Congress, the FDA, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself.”
Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (2004)
There is no reason to believe that the Australian Government and Australian Medical Professionals are immune to the influence of the drug companies … but how does this work in practice?
How does Big Pharma influences doctors in Australia?
To get a better understanding of how drug companies influence both doctors and government listen to ABC Radio National’s Background Briefing. A former pharmaceutical industry insider speaking candidly with Ray Moynihan about discusses how she sold medicines to Australian doctors for more than a decade.
Moynihan a columnist with both the BMJ and The Medical Journal of Australia – says:
“While much is written globally about pharmaceutical marketing, this is one of the first times in Australia that a former insider has spoken so frankly and fully about the way doctors are persuaded to prescribe the latest and most expensive medicines. Her revelations come against a backdrop of the nation’s expenditure on pharmaceuticals continuing to explode – at close to 10 percent a year – now reaching almost $10 billion annually.
One of the most alarming aspects of what we will learn from this former industry insider is the way in which a network of senior influential specialists are quietly working with drug companies and being paid generous sums to help promote the latest products – without the knowledge of their patients or the public.”
Moynihan says the program explores the timely debate about the need for much greater disclosure of the details of doctor-drug company interactions, featuring speakers from the Australian Medical Association, Medicines Australia, and Healthy Scepticism
What do you think? Do you think that there needs to be greater transparency between the pharmaceutical companies and doctors? Do you think that this accountability should be extended to explore how this impacts the PBS and the Health Budget?
Image: Doctor Payoffs by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, on Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)