Trusting Doctors, Not Drug Makers

Americans are perfectly willing to bite the hand that cures them. Even as they ingest all sorts of wonder drugs, many of them look askance at the pharmaceutical industry. The chart below draws on a Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Poll on the subject. As you can see, just over one-fourth of respondents give drug companies a clean bill of health when it comes to their marketing to doctors.

Does this mean consumers feel their own care is compromised by the machinations of Big Medicine? A majority don’t, mainly thanks to the confidence they have in their own doctors. Sixty-seven percent trust their physicians to “choose the drug that is best” for them. Just 23 percent fear their doctors “may be influenced too much by the marketing efforts of the pharmaceutical companies to sell more of their drugs.” People concede that the sales process offers some informational value. Thus, just 8 percent prefer that their doctors not even meet with drug companies’ salespeople; 21 percent prefer that their doctors do meet these people to learn about the medicines they’re peddling; and an indulgent 64 percent are happy to let their doctors decide this matter for themselves.

The survey also solicited opinion about the continuing-education programs that some pharmaceutical makers sponsor for doctors, which include information on the benefits of the companies’ own products. A large majority of the respondents (72 percent) believe this practice should be allowed, while 11 percent think it ought to be banned.