Katz, Caplan and Merz- Gift-giving

This week’s readings focus on the relationship between gifts given by drug companies to physicians and the influence this has on the prescription of medication.  The consensus is that gifts from drug companies tend to increase medication, and subsequently profit from medication.  Physicians are readily in contact with sales reps who wish to promote and sell their medication.  Kertz, Caplan and Merz claim that there is a need for new considerations regarding the gift-giving policies of the medical profession.  They posit that until the 90’s physicians were susceptible to being influenced by large gifts, however in this time, limitations were introduced with the mentality that the size of the gift correlates directly with the impact it has.  So although limitations were set, doctors regularly received gifts from companies.

For the companies this was seen as a marketing tactic, with set budgets for these investments.  In this article Kertz, Caplan and Merz claim that this act of gift giving places an obligatory burden on the physician to reciprocate the gesture.  Furthermore, they insist that this feeling of obligation does not solely apply to large or expensive gifts but to all gifts in general.  The problem with this relationship is that the focus is shifted from the patient onto the medication.  This is a problem that may arise unintentionally and subconsciously, because at times the physician might not be aware of the biases they have developed.  Therefore if patients were to ask their doctors to inform them on the drug, their only source of information would be coming from the doctor himself. This quote encapsualtes this notion well: “researchers have found that the more gifts a physician receives, the more likely he or she is to believe that they do not influence behaviour” (Katz, Caplan and Merz 40).

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