Drug rep data are useful prescribing tools, doctors say

Pharmaceutical company-sponsored educational programs with physician speakers also rate high in influencing choices, a survey shows.

By Alicia Gallegos — Posted April 11, 2011

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Nearly 70% of physicians view information from drug company reps as useful in making prescribing decisions, according to a survey published online March 29 by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

The study, funded by PhRMA and based on a survey of 508 American Medical Association physicians, analyzed doctors' opinions about medication decisions and the sources from which they obtain drug information. The phone survey was conducted by KRC Research between December 2010 and January 2011. Of the physicians surveyed, 42% were primary care doctors and 58% were specialists.

In addition to drug rep information, 64% of doctors consider drug company-sponsored educational programs featuring physician speakers valuable when making prescribing choices. Rural doctors, in particular, rated the programs as highly useful sources of drug information.

Clinical knowledge was the top factor in deciding on prescriptions, with 84% of physicians relying on clinical experience "a great deal." Patient feedback also ranked high, with the majority of doctors saying a patient's response to a proposed prescription was important.

"What is clear from the results ... is that physicians review and integrate information from many sources in order to stay informed about medicines," PhRMA President and CEO John J. Castellani said in a statement. "This helps them make the most informed treatment decisions possible."

Researchers asked physicians how they viewed their interactions with drug company reps. More than 90% said the relationships allow them to learn about new indications for approved medications and potential side effects. About 85% reported the interactions give them the chance to provide feedback about a medication.

The majority of physicians said it's moderately difficult to stay informed about new medicines and treatments. Thirty-six percent said it was "somewhat difficult" to stay up-to-date on medications, and 35% said it was "not very difficult." Only 5% said it was "very difficult."

The survey found that three in four physicians accept free drug samples, with most using them to determine a medication's value before filling a prescription. About 90% use samples to assist uninsured patients. Allowing patients to start treatment immediately and giving doctors firsthand medication experience were among the other reasons physicians accepted free drug samples.

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External links

"Survey of Physicians About Pharmaceutical and Biotech Research Company Activities and Information," Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America, published online March 29 (link)

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