The University Record, October 16, 2000


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Lower drug costs by eliminating ‘free lunches’

In addition to the ways mentioned in the article about how “You can help keep drug costs down,” I’d like to suggest another one: asking the drug companies to stop spending money on physicians and other medical staff in the form of “free lunches,” conferences in expensive hotels for the whole family, hundreds of little gadgets, and many others I’m sure I don’t know about. The money spent paying the pharmaceutical representatives to do their “presentations” in medical centers, the lunches and the gifts they bring to these events and the millions spent on TV commercials are contributing to the drug costs, and the University should make sure that its employees are aware of this fact. A drug should be considered effective and prescribed as such because it does what it is supposed to do, not because the physician received nicer gifts from one company than from the other. As an educational institution, the University shouldn’t allow this kind of unethical transaction between pharmaceutical companies and the medical staff on its campus. When I brought up this issue in the past I was told that pharmaceutical representatives are not allowed on campus anymore and that there might be some “loopholes.” Indeed, they are large enough to let a pharmaceutical representative go through. I know people who refuse to go to the “free” lunches because they think it is unethical, but many seem to see no connection between high drug prices and the expenses made on their behalf. I think it is the University’s task to make sure that its employees understand it and act against it.

Ruxandra-Ana Iacob, research associate II, Institute for Social Research, and former Medical Center employee