The LA Times has been running a series of articles on the influence of drug companies on doctors. Whatever the merits of the articles may be, I found the opening of one of them to be particularly interesting. Here’s the spin:
- FOR many Americans, a doctor’s decision to prescribe medication is something of a sacred transaction. A physician considers the patient and symptoms and chooses the best drug for the job, drawing upon years of training and clinical experience. It is an exchange conducted in a hushed sanctuary, far from the heat and noise of the marketplace — a place where cool judgment reigns.
- That sanctuary has been breached. Today, drug manufacturers do everything in their considerable power to ensure that their brand-name prescription medications are on the lips of patients and in the minds of physicians every time the two meet across an exam table. A growing chorus of critics says their efforts have begun to rewrite the dialogue between patient and doctor, influence physicians’ judgments and open the act of prescribing to forces more profit-minded than sacred.
Now, perhaps my experience is different from most, but I simply don’t recall St. Peter being the receptionist at any of my recent doctor visits. I didn’t go through the pearly gates at the entrance, and the examining room certainly wasn’t a Garden of Eden.
So what we have here is an attempt to set up a straw man of some idealized past doctor-patient relationship, so that now drug companies can be portrayed as the serpents who invaded the garden.
Here’s my question: in truth, was a doctor’s decision to prescribe medicine really ever a “sacred transaction,” akin to some medical priest treating with us in the hushed confines of the exam room confessional? And if it was (and I have my doubts), what other factors besides drug company influence have changed the dynamic?