NEWS

Conferences run by drug firms are ethically ensnaring physicians

Does the traditional patient-doctor relationship exist today? This is gradually waning for various reasons. One reason is the growth of social and private insurance, which means that the patient can no longer choose a physician except in rare cases. The doctor is paid by the state or insurance fund in question. Thus, subconsciously, patients feel that doctors answer to their employer rather than themselves, creating a kind of rift. Another reason is that medical care has become mechanized. In the past physicians used percussion, touch and the stethoscope for their diagnosis. Today you will notice that stethoscopes have become decorative jewelry around the doctor’s neck. They do not use them that much anymore. The doctor is obliged to rely on more removed diagnostic methods, such as X-rays and scans. So various test results are collected but doctors do not get close to the patient nor do they find the time to do so, especially in the hospital. I also think the mass media play a key role in doctor-patient relations by presenting incredible breakthroughs daily, the majority of which do not exist, or by focusing on exceptions to reveal medical wrongdoings. By relying entirely on the results produced by various machines and setting aside discussions with patients, doctors often make mistakes. What do you think? They cannot do otherwise. This is the dark side of medical care today. It started in America, where a third of the lawyers secure their earnings from court suits and cases against doctors for negligence and malpractice. Gradually, mainly to protect doctors, regulations called documented medical care were introduced. In other words, you exercise medical care on the basis of objective criteria that are comparable and measurable. Defensive docs Do Greek physicians practice defensive medical care? Why not? We often see such reports on television. What a doctor did, why he did it this way and not another way. All this is made public (as in the case of blood transfusions) so that even when taking blood from a 90-year-old man who is unlikely to have contracted AIDS the doctor will conduct a molecular test to be sure. [Because of more tests], this makes medical care highly costly. What actually affects doctors’ careers? Unfortunately they no longer rely on clinical skills or on their ability to treat the patient. Doctors are judged by the number of studies conducted, papers published, conferences attended, and how many times their name appears in bibliographies. The patient is a means of progress for the doctor not as a personality but as a number, an illness, a peculiarity, someone who is testing a medicine and so on. A doctor’s career is based not on what the doctor performs in front of the patient but on what they write and how they appear. Drug firms For example, 50 seminars and conferences are organized annually for cardiology… Vast sums of money are spent to fund costly conferences as well as hotel accommodation, airplane tickets, events and trips associated with the conferences. Who is behind all this? The pharmaceutical manufacturers? It cannot be anything else. Conferences are very rarely organized by the state. Why do [the companies] do it? To promote their drugs and products. For doctors this firstly creates a dependency and secondly is a form of brainwashing. For instance, a special seminar takes place for a particular illness and suddenly a new drug is revealed. It is the most effective. After 18-20 years the drug is forgotten and another one takes its place. There is no doubt that to produce a new drug $500-600 million is required, two-thirds of which is for its distribution. Companies have to play this game or go bankrupt. So doctors are bought off then… This might be the case; we do not know. Taking your family and traveling business class to Frankfurt to stay in the best hotel [for a conference] is a form of buying off. It can also take a different form, such as conducting research on a well-known drug.