In yet another consumer-bashing move, the US Supreme Court ruled June 23, 2011, that pharmaceutical companies may now purchase lists of the drugs that individual doctors prescribe (without the name of the patient) for marketing purposes.
The ruling was made using the First Amendment Freedom of Speech argument that if researchers and journalist were allowed to gather such records, then marketers deserved equal access. Um, this doesn’t exactly seem like freedom of speech to me. It’s more like data mining. And that pretty much sucks.
Not only do the pharmaceutical companies not need to know what drugs our doctors are prescribing to us (even anonymously), they don’t need to be putting pressure on doctors to prescribe more of their particular drug.
What I hear from doctors is that they feel besieged by drug reps who pound them with expensive brochures, volumes of research and “educational” materials. There is unprecedented marketing influence over our most personal body mechanics. I, for one, don’t like it a bit.
One consumer advocate said that the ruling could create a conflict of interest for physicians who must fight to maintain the best interests of their patients while being bombarded or pressured by pharmaceutical companies.
Having come of age in an era when consumer protection was firmly entrenched in the culture (although I might have been naive about my trust), it’s still a shock to see just how little our individual needs influence the marketplace. And make no mistake, the medical field is a marketplace; has been for more than a decade. I hate it. I hope we can withstand the commercialization of our health. Even more, I hope we can survive it.