October 7, 2021
National Geographic in one of its articles says that symbiosis is the art of living together. (1) Symbiotic relationships are an important component of life in the ecosystem of jungles and the oceans. Plants or animals of different species are dependent on one another for survival.
There should be a similar symbiosis between doctors and pharma. The pharmaceutical industry has played an important role in medical progress. By developing newer vaccines and biotech products the R&D and F&D teams have saved many lives.
And the healthcare profession has also produced some of the finest and the noblest doctors and nurses, dedicated to making the lives of suffering patients more comfortable.
There is surely one thing you will agree upon: both the pharmaceutical industry and the HCP’s must focus on one common goal – improving health and patient outcome in a symbiotic way.
Lack of clarity on relationship
Often, there is alack of clarity in the relationships between the HCP’s and the pharmaceutical professionals. This needs to be looked into. There will be no clear route forward if HCP’s continue to think that “working with pharma is bad”. Both should not lose sight of the shared aspirations – superior patient outcome.
It is in everyone’s interest that patients come first and the medicines pharma produce are safe and effective. And prescriptions generated by doctors are based on ethics. Both should be patient-centric.
It is not correct for pharma professionals to believe that medical professionals can become easy victims to an industry that readily fools them with its marketing strategies and tactics.
Many leading medical professionals find it condescending to be considered so malleable to the “marketing exercises” of pharma companies. They consider it offensive to suggest that medical professionals cannot conduct an ethical exchange with industry.
Despite strong differences and the strained relations between doctors and pharma professionals today, it is critical to determine how to establish and nourish authentic, symbiotic alliances.
But isn’t it true that the HCP’s whose IQ is much above the lay public, unknowingly succumb to pharma marketing promotions? Are HCP’s so naïve that they can unwittingly become victims of financial incentives and sensationalized pharma promotion?
And back to the pharma industry, doesn’t pharma suppress unfavorable clinical trial data? Or why is it that so many drugs, like cisapride, rofecoxib and, many more banned by regulatory affairs? Has the pharma industry not conducted clinical trials for a product indicated in erectile dysfunction, on mentally deranged patients? (2,3)
Is any pharmacovigilance in place for the prescriptions’ of the irrational fixed-dose combinations in a country like India?
Today’s patients are well-read, vigilant and have a high DQ. Negative news and stories in social media and the lay press fuel the fear of patients and their caretakers that the HCP’s interactions with industry are dangerous to them (the patient) and are eroding HCP’s professionalism.
The number of medical professionals who have an unethical relationship with the industry is not known and presumably is very small, but is blown out of proportion in social media.
Donald A. Redelmeier writes in the Journal of General Internal Medicine that “I believe we are justified in worrying about how much pharmaceutical industry gifts influence physicians to make decisions based on marketing strategies loaded with psychological factors rather than objective information sources containing scientific evidence.” More research needs to be done into the psychology of medical professionals accepting gifts although many medical professionals would like us to believe that financial incentive did not influence their own practice, but possibly the others in the fraternity. (4)
Pharmaceutical funding plays an important role in medical progress. Thus, clinical and academic research has been significantly commercialized. There are data to suggest that economic interest from industry may have a negative influence on the objectivity of science, research publication, and even patient management’ (5)
Both the pharma industry and the doctors should make changes in behavior. There should be a healthy symbiotic relation between the two, keeping only one objective in mind – the welfare of the patient and the treatment outcome. Patient-centric approach which is a natural offshoot of Human-to-Human Mindset.
- Resource Library: Article. ‘Symbiosis: The Art of Living Together’. National Geographic. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/symbiosis-art-living-together/
- The Times of India (29 November 2012). ‘Woman suffered ‘erectile dysfunction’. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/woman-suffered-erectile-dysfunction-says-report-by-indore-psychiatrist/articleshow/17407875.cms. (Accessed: 10-01-2014)
- Rajalakshmi T.K. (2012). ‘Criminal Trials’. Available at: https://frontline.thehindu.com/the-nation/public-health/article30164174.ece (Accessed: 10-01-2014)
- Redelmeier, DA. (2010). ‘On the Psychology of Pharmaceutical Industry Gifts to Physicians’. J Gen Intern Med.2010 Jan; 25(1): 7–8.. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2811604/ (Accessed: 29-11-2016),’
- Keller F, Marczewski K, and Pavlovic D. (2016), ‘The relationship between the physician and pharmaceutical industry: background ethics and regulation proposals’. Croat Med J. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5048228/ (Accessed: 03-1-2017)