A study published on March 2006 indicates that the way oncologists are paid may influence decisions on drugs they chose to use in chemotherapy. Although payment method does not influence the choice of chemotherapy over other methods of treatment, once doctors decide to use chemotherapy, the payment system used prompts some doctors to either use cheap or expensive drugs.
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Pollsters from Harvard University and the University of Michigan note that openhandedly refunded suppliers prescribed expensive chemotherapy tablets to lung, metastatic breast, and colorectal cancer patients.
Oncologists can benefit from chemotherapy concession as they are compensated for the cost of drugs administered intravenously in their offices. Insurance reimbursements are very high compared to purchase prices of the drugs. The potential conflict of interest influences doctors’ decisions.
Instead of basing their choice of drugs on clinical evidence, studies show that treatment decisions are affected by financial factors, payment policies, and gifts from drug manufacturing companies. This study is a clear indication of pharmaceutical malpractices in which doctors are swayed from their primary focus of ensuring patients’ wellbeing to vested interests in financial gains.
An analysis of articles written about Avandia, a diabetes drug found that experts who received financial favors from the drug’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline were likely to draw favorable conclusions about the safety and efficacy of the drug. Avandia is prescribed to help control the level of blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes. Studies show that the drug is associated with increased possibility of a heart attack.
A research to explore links between author’s opinions and financial interests reviewed 202 articles. Grading the outcome by independent reviewers without conflict of interest, it was found that 108 (53%) of the articles had conflict of interest phrases and 90 (45%) had financial interests vested in their writing.
Authors reporting favorable opinions about the drug had been paid by either GlaxoSmithKline or their competitors. From this, 87% of those who gave favorable opinions had conflicts of interest with the manufacturer. On the other hand, only 20% of those with unfavorable opinions about the drug had been paid by the manufacturer of the drug.
According to GlaxoSmithKline’s spokeswoman, out of 202 articles, only 20 were based on scientific research. This study shows the implications of research in the well being of the society. If researchers have vested interests other than reporting the truth, the findings will always be biased.
In 1999, GlaxoSmithKline began a study to establish if Avandia posed fewer risks to the heart than Actos, manufactured by Takeda. Research carried out concluded that Actos was still superior over Avandia and more dangerous to the heart. Reports indicate that the company did not publish the results and tried to find ways of covering them up for the next 11 years. The company’s executive wrote in an e-mail message that the study findings should not get to the public.
Reports show that the company knew of the risks of heart attacks posed by Avandia after the introduction of the drug in 1999 and chose to keep the results from the public. The company’s main fear was loss of sales that could result from publicizing the drug’s cardiovascular safety risks. Withholding data about safety of the medicine manufactured in a company puts patients at risk. In 2004, the company was also found to have hidden information showing that Paxil depressants led teenagers and children to have suicidal thoughts and behaviors.