The secret to getting doctors to prescribe less

Yesterday I told you about the hidden risks of antibiotics — a notoriously overprescribed class of drugs.

But they’re hardly the only medications that doctors prescribe like they’re going out of style. It’s a problem I talk about a lot: The fact that doctors often seem to be acting in the best interests of drug companies, not patients, when they pull out their prescription pad.

Is that because doctors really don’t care about their patients? Of course not. But in an age of the 8-minute appointment, mounting paperwork requirements, and just not enough time in the day, even doctors are prone to take shortcuts.

One of those shortcuts is listening to the Big Pharma reps who show up at their offices and peddle their drugs. And sure, all the free gifts and meals the drug reps bring with them probably don’t hurt either.

But plenty of doctors would argue that even though, yes, they take those free gifts and meals, their decision-making isn’t influenced by drug reps.

Well, according to a new study, that’s just plain wrong.

In fact, the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that when teaching hospitals tightened the reins on drug reps, doctors don’t order as many of the drugs they’re promoting.

An editorial published with the research emphasized the fact that drug company promotions should not be the way doctors learn about drugs. Which shouldn’t be news to anyone, but let’s hope that this time the powers that be listen up and make some changes.