HEALTHCARE WITHOUT THE GUESSWORK

WHEN IS PROVIDING information about drugs a form of education? And when is it advertising and marketing? Those questions have been raised in a number of articles in The New York Times, including recently in "Drug Makers' Push Leads to Cancer Vaccines' Fast Rise," (August 20, 2008). More than once the Times has pointed out the link between drug companies' payments to doctors for giving what are described as informational or educational speeches to other doctors about a specific drug, and the physicians' tendency to prescribe it to patients. Asked if they see a connection between receiving the payments and prescribing the drug, doctors generally tend to say that the money does not influence them. Could there be some influence from these payments?

Such opportunities to earn sometimes thousands of dollars place strong temptations on those who are in a healing profession. Despite the potential influence, they need to maintain clarity about their role as healers rather than as advocates for products or for experimentation with medications that may not be approved for the use to which they are put. "Physicians, whom the sick employ in their helplessness, should be models of virtue," observed Mary Baker Eddy, in her seminal work Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. "They should be wise spiritual guides to health and hope" (p. 235).

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October 6, 2008
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