Do Health Care Ethics Need to Change?

Due to new reporting requirements, some doctors are reconsidering whether to take payments and gifts from pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Could pharmacists find themselves in a similar position?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Doctors Face New Scrutiny Over Gifts” describes how pharmaceutical and medical device companies must now report how much they spend on individual physicians. These expenditures can range from pizza brought by sales reps to doctor’s offices to compensation paid to doctors in exchange for expert advice on research. The article suggests that, as a result of these new reporting requirements, many physicians are reconsidering how they relate to these companies.

As I read the article, I asked myself, “Is this really necessary?” If it is, why didn’t the medical profession or the industry police itself before the federal government had to get involved? The other question I asked myself, of course, was what about pharmacists? As we play a bigger role in determining which drugs patients use, could we be subject to the same scrutiny? Are you ready to have a spotlight shined on the compensation you receive from industry? Of course, these payments are not automatically unethical, but unfortunately perception can become reality. So, avoiding any hint of unethical behavior may be the best course of action. Based on the Wall Street Journal article, it sounds like that is the decision some physicians have made.

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