The American Medical Association(AMA) is spending a lot of drug-company money to tell doctors not to accept large gifts from drug companies. The AMA says it makes sense to involve the industry in a campaign that's also designed to inform drug makers about what is considered unethical behavior.
At issue are the myriad freebies, ranging from pens and notepads to free dinners and trips, that some drug makers shower on doctors. Ethicists say the gifts could encourage doctors to prescribe medications that may not be in patients' best interests.
"Overall they spend billions of dollars trying to influence physicians prescribing behavior, and it works," said Dr. John Lantos, associate director of the University of Chicago's MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. "We're attempting to not only re-educate physicians but also the marketing forces," retaliated John Lantos.
AMA policy suggests a limit of about $100 on such gifts and says they should not include things like free trips, hotel accommodations and other personal expenses for doctors attending conferences. Things like work-related pens and notepads are considered acceptable.
"Any gifts accepted by physicians individually should primarily entail a benefit to patients and should not be of substantial value," the policy says. The AMA on Monday began mailing informational material to doctors, which includes a list of the drug-company sponsors. The campaign also includes a new Web site about the guidelines.