I still shake my head in amazement every time I think about what I learned that night.
I was attending my Addictions Counseling course and the teacher casually mentioned how doctors received incentives from the pharmaceutical companies to push their products.
“That can’t be right?” I thought. “That’s too inconceivable?”
I raised my hand and asked the teacher to clarify what he had just said. I figured that I must have heard him wrong.
He calmly elaborated on how the system worked, and that doctors were compensated with TVs, trips etc. It didn’t seem like that big a deal to him. And then he went on with the lecture.
For me, the rest of the evening was a blur. I lost some sort of innocence that I could never get back. Here was a crime so corrupt that it transcended description and fell far below the lowest realm of ethics … yet somehow, it was perfectly legal? To this day, it STILL boggles my mind that this could be allowed?
The reason I mention this is because when I was posting my remedy on the RLS.org discussion board, someone replied to my post saying that Dr. Buchfuhrer states that inflammation is NOT the cause of RLS … so basically, take a hike.
I responded by saying I don’t know who Dr. Buchfuhrer is, but if he says that inflammation is not the cause, he’s wrong.
That started a bit of a fire fight. I didn’t realize that Dr. Buchfuhrer was a trail blazing icon for many RLSers. It turns out he’s also a member of the RLS.org Medical Advisory Board.
I figured if he’s such a great guy, maybe he’s more open-minded than the average doctor, and would be interested in hearing about my story and how I’ve come to believe that inflammation is the primary cause of RLS. I thought that he could be the inroad into the scientific community that I was looking for, and finally some RLS studies could be done based on a remedy that I truly believe will work for anyone that follows it.
So, I did some Googling and found a few links for Dr. Buchfuhrer.
I found a bio. It was pretty basic. Seemed like a nice guy. I went to the next page, and that’s when I had the terrible flashback to that night, long ago, in my Addictions Counselling course.
On this website I was looking at was a video of Dr. Buchfuhrer promoting Mirapex. If you’re not familiar with Mirapex, it’s one of the top drugs that are prescribed by physicians to their RLS patients.
You can visit this link to watch him doing the Mirapex commercial.
The website has a disclaimer stating that the doctors giving these testimonials were compensated (just in case we though they were doing it for free).
“The doctors who appear on this site have been compensated for their time by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.”
Here is Dr. B’s testimonial from that same website:
“My overall experience with MIRAPEX has been very positive. It’s a medication that can be used with very low dose and works very, very well and both effectively and safe for most RLS patients.” – Mark Buchfuhrer, MD
Now, here’s the interesting part. Here are the potential side-effects of Mirapex … as stated on the Mirapex website. http://www.mirapex.com
“MIRAPEX may cause you to fall asleep without any warning, even while doing normal daily activities, such as driving. Before taking MIRAPEX, talk to your doctor if you drink alcohol or take other medications that make you drowsy as these can increase the chance that MIRAPEX will make you feel sleepy or fall asleep when you should be awake. When taking MIRAPEX, hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling, or tasting something that isn’t there) may occur and you may sometimes feel dizzy, nauseated, faint or sweaty when you sit up or stand quickly.
The most commonly reported side effects of MIRAPEX that were more frequent than with placebo are nausea, dizziness, sleepiness, difficulty falling asleep, involuntary movement, and constipation. In clinical trials for advanced PD, the most commonly reported side effects of MIRAPEX that were more frequent than with placebo are low blood pressure when you sit up or stand quickly, involuntary movement, difficulty falling asleep, dizziness, accidental injury, hallucinations, and dream abnormalities. You should talk with your doctor if you experience these problems.
There have been reports of impulse control disorders and compulsive behaviors in patients taking certain medicines, including MIRAPEX. If you or your family members notice that you are experiencing new or increased gambling urges, increased sexual urges or other intense urges, such as compulsive shopping or eating, while taking MIRAPEX, talk to your doctor.”
I kind of go speechless after I read this stuff.
Now, I’m sure many of you think that I’m some sort of conspiracy theorist, and that there is no real evidence that doctors receive perks from the drug companies. You probably think that it’s more of an urban myth.
I wish that were true, but it’s not. It’s a real live ugly situation.
Thankfully, the authorities are finally trying to clean things up a bit.
I think you could spend all day finding examples online, but here are a few.
From ABC News …
“Further investigation into the $6 billion spent by drug companies for what they say is a way to educate doctors showed that tactics like lavish gifts and trips are surprisingly common.
“It’s embarrassing, it’s extravagant and it’s unethical,” said Dr. Arnold Relman, a Harvard Medical School professor and the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. “It makes the doctor feel beholden … it suborns the judgment of the doctor.”
Few doctors were willing to talk publicly about their relationships with pharmaceutical companies, but one upstate New York doctor was willing to come forward.
“It’s very tempting and they just keep anteing it up. And it’s getting harder to say no,” said Dr. Rudy Mueller. “I feel in some ways it’s kind of like bribery.”
Disgusted by how the free gifts and trips add to the high price of medicine, and moved by the plight of patients forced to skip needed medication, Mueller agreed to provide Primetime with a rare glimpse of the astounding number of drug company freebies he was offered by various drug companies in a four-month period.
He was presented with an estimated $10,000 worth, including an all-expenses-paid trip to a resort in Florida, dinner cruises, hockey game tickets, a ski trip for the family, Omaha steaks, a day at a spa and free computer equipment. “
Brian Ross and David W. Scott, “Do Drug Company Perks Influence Doctors? How Pharmaceutical Companies Use Enticement to ‘Educate’ Physicians” ABC News abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=132141&page=1
From the New York Times …
“In a scolding report, the nation’s most influential medical advisory group said doctors should stop taking much of the money, gifts and free drug samples they routinely accept from drug and device companies.
Drug companies spend billions of dollars wooing doctors — more than they spend on research or consumer advertising. Much of this money is spent on giving doctors free drug samples, free food, free medical refresher courses and payments for marketing lectures. The institute’s report recommends that nearly all of these efforts end.
The largest drug makers agreed last year to stop giving doctors pens, pads and other gifts of small value, but company executives have defended other marketing tactics as valuable to both doctors and patients. Medical device and biotechnology companies have yet to swear off free trips or even pens.”
Gardiner Harris, “Institute of Medicine Calls for Doctors to Stop Taking Gifts From Drug Makers” The New York Times (April 28, 2009) www.nytimes.com/2009/04/29/health/policy/29drug.html
From “The Day” …
“The bill, SB-270, requires drug and medical device companies to adopt a marketing code of compliance that, among other things, would limit gifts, meals and continuing-education benefits to physicians as well as force companies to publicize interactions with health care providers.
“This bill can really hinder or change the relationship between doctors and our field representatives,” said Pfizer spokeswoman Liz Power in a phone interview. These salespeople provide “critical information about prescription medicines” to busy doctors, she added.”
Lee Howard, “Pharma Opposes Bill to Limit Perks for Doctors” The Day, New London, CT. (April 22, 2010) www.theday.com/article/20100422/BIZ02/304229351/1044
They’ve actually done studies on how these perks affect doctor’s decisions.
From “The International Journal of Health Services” …
“Evidence suggests that physicians’ interactions with pharmaceutical companies do affect physician behavior. In 2000, Wazana’s analysis of 16 studies found convincing evidence that interaction with drug companies led to preference for prescribing a given company’s medication, inability to identify false claims about a medication, non rational prescribing behavior, increase in prescribing rates, and prescribing fewer generic equivalents, even when more expensive medications demonstrated no advantage. “
Sarah Roberts and James Jastifer, “Patients’ Awareness of and Attitudes Toward Gifts from Pharmaceutical Companies to Physicians.” International Journal of Health Services (2009) www.britannica.com/bps/additionalcontent/18/37699018/Patients-Awareness-of-and-Attitudes-Toward-Gifts-from-Pharmaceutical-Companies-to-Physicians
I don’t mean to dump this whole sick twisted system on the head of one guy. I’m just presenting some facts to help you better understand the current RLS treatments, and what options are available to you.
To better understand the current relationship between the Drug Companies and doctors, and how it consciously or unconsciously influences the doctor’s decision to hand out pills, imagine if the same system was in place for your local Police Department.
Imagine if your local police department had an unlimited budget, and in order to lessen the crime rate, every time an officer made an arrest, they would receive a $100 bonus.
The arrest rate would obviously soar to new heights.
It’s also true that if every arrest was examined by an ethics committee, the officers would be able to justify every single one of them. They would also try to convince the committee that even if the financial incentive was not in place, each of the arrests would have still been made. The spike in the arrest rate since the new initiative was put into place, is pure coincidence.
This is where we stand today. We have inherited this extremely corrupt and unethical system. And now, finally, changes are being made.
As an RLS sufferer, you have to wonder how many RLS sufferers out there are taking Requip, Mirapex, Sifrol etc. because of these incentives? And you also have to wonder, are you one of them?
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