A free lunch may be all it takes to persuade a doctor to prescribe a brand-name drug instead of a cheaper generic, a new study suggests.
Using Medicare’s Open Payments data, researchers collected information on 279,669 doctors who received 63,524 payments reported by drug companies. They concentrated on specific drugs in four categories: cholesterol lowering statins, two types of blood pressure drugs and antidepressants.
The study, in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that 95 percent of the payments were for meals sponsored by drug companies, worth about $12 to $18 each.
Doctors who were treated to a single meal, where drug companies present information about their medications, were 18 percent more likely to prescribe Crestor, a brand-name cholesterol-lowering medicine. They were 70 percent more likely to prescribe Bystolic, a brand-name beta blocker for high blood pressure, and 52 percent more likely to prescribe Benicar, also for hypertension.
The more meals doctors had, the more likely they were to prescribe the promoted drug.