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Ever wonder why some doctors prescribe one particular brand of drug over another similar drug in the class? The answer may very well be because of incentives the drug manufacturers are providing to doctors and their offices to encourage it. In a recent article in the New York Times, drug manufactures, like Merck & Co., are providing lunches as one such incentive.

According to

Like the “free” vacation that comes with a time-share pitch attached, the lunches go down along with a pitch from pharmaceutical representatives hoping to bolster prescription sales. The cost of the lunches is ultimately factored in to drug company marketing expenses, working its way into the price of prescription drugs.

Doing business over lunch is a common practice in many fields, but drug makers have honed it to perfection, particularly since 2002, when the drug industry adopted a new code banning many other free enticements — golf outings, athletic tickets, trips and lavish dinners for doctors. The code gives approval to modest meals in the course of business. And conventional wisdom in both the pharmaceutical industry and the medical profession is that a lunch is too small to pose an ethical problem. But a growing number of critics say that even those small lunches should be banned.

This article brings up interesting questions relating to doctors and the choices of prescription medications they proscribe. Do these incentives really entice doctors to proscribe their medications over others who do not employ these tactics? Are these creative incentives enough to encourage a doctor to proscribe a drug he might not ordinarily prescribe due to the drugs side effects anyway? The answers to these questions are still largely unknown, but it does make you wonder how far their effects are felt.

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