The Yanks are also trying to apply brakes to the mounting problem of inducements to doctors by drug companies to prescribe their wares.
The American Medical Association recently adopted a code entitled “Guidelines for Gifts from Industry to Physicians”. The guidelines maintain, in effect, that doctors are allowed to accept ballpoint pens or note pads, but not trips to the Bahamas.
By “coincidence”, as the Lancet pointed out, these recommendations were adopted a few days before a set of Congressional hearings about the promotional practices of the drug industry.
Among the catalogue of activities was a scheme offering doctors “frequent flyer” points for each prescription written.
Drug companies were also guilty of wooing physicians with $35,000 computer systems and appointments to their advisory boards.
The Washington based consumerist organization the Health Research Group has even launched the “Doctor Bribing Hot Line” for such practices to be reported.
As the Lancet observed, the only problem with the AMA guidelines is that they have no teeth in them no requirements for disclosure or penalties but are up to the good faith of the individual doctor and the drug industry. “Given the aggressiveness and ingenuity of the industry, and the many physicians who have long been on the take without embarrassment,” a Lancet editorial notes, “the effectiveness of mere guidelines is open to doubt.”