In 2009, I believe, a law went into effect in Massachusetts prohibiting drug and medical device companies from paying doctors to promote their products. I think a stricter federal law which will be along the same line is coming. Now that we have some data, the numbers are dropping significantly.
I am all for this. While I do believe everyone should be allowed to earn extra money in anyway they (legally) can, sometimes we need to put some reins on what people are doing. If a doctor is making significant income from a drug or medical device company, their loyalties are clearly to their richest employer. So are they then a doctor or are they a professional promoter?
I want a doctor who is focused on treating patients impartially with what is best for the patient in mind. Not with how they, the doctor and his pockets, will benefit the most. If a doctor wants to work for the pharmaceutical companies and promote their products because they get paid better, are sick of treating patients, or whatever, then they should consider themselves a professional promoter and not a doctor.
I also like to see that doctor's employers are making it easy for the doctors too. They are incorporating these restrictions into their employees requirements. I realize that until the federal law kicks in, in 2012 or 2013 (I think), the drug and medical device companies are getting doctors as speakers from other states. But once the law does kick in, they will need to change how they promote their drugs.
My background is marketing so I can understand this. By hiring the doctors to speak about their products, they are hiring the decision makers to influence their peers from a medical point of view, instead of just being a sales pitch from another corporation. It gives a lot more credibility to their products to have a peer stand up and say 'it works very well'. Now they will need to find another way to promote their products. Millions of television ads promoting the medications to the general public really aren't effective as they raise awareness of a product's name but the patient can only ask their doctor about it, they can't go buy it themselves. I see a real restructuring of their promotional programs as a result.
But as a patient, I am very happy about all this change. I see it as just another step of change in the bigger healthcare reform where the patient's improved care is more of a focus than deep pockets by doctors, hospitals, medical centers, insurance companies, and medical device and drug manufacturers. The goal is to have the patient win in the end - which makes it a good change.