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Comment & Response
December 2016

Important Distinctions Concerning Pharmaceutical Company–Sponsored Meals and Prescribing Patterns—Reply

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Healthcare Value, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco
  • 2Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, Honolulu
  • 3Pacific Health Research and Education Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • 4Center for Healthcare Value, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco
JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(12):1881. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.7157

In Reply In response to our study,1 Dr Cohen, CEO of a biopharmaceutical company, argues that “no entity is better equipped to educate physicians about a particular treatment option than the company that developed it.” Where Cohen finds reassurance, we find cause for concern.

We found that the receipt of a single pharmaceutical industry–sponsored meal with an average value under $20 was robustly associated with physicians prescribing the promoted drug to Medicare patients. The promoted brand-name drugs we examined were all off-formulary at the US Department of Veterans Affairs as cheaper and similarly effective alternatives are available. Yet, these brand-name drugs cost Medicare billions of dollars in 2013.1 Similarly strong associations between industry gifts, payments, and physician prescribing have been found in other recent studies.24

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