March 31, 2011 — At a time when interaction between biopharmaceutical companies and physicians is under increased scrutiny, a recent physician survey indicates that a majority of physicians find information provided by pharmaceutical and biotech research companies and their representatives to be a valuable resource, with 94 percent of physicians reporting that information from company reps is up-to-date, useful and reliable.
Indeed, nearly eight out of 10 physicians view this information as helpful, and more than 90 percent of physicians surveyed responded that interactions with biopharmaceutical representatives allow them to learn about new indications for approved medicines, potential side effects of medicines and both emerging benefits and risks of medicines, according to the results of the survey, sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and released March 29.
KRC Research conducted the survey of more than 500 American Medical Association members and found that physicians consider a wide range of factors when making prescribing decisions, including their clinical knowledge, experience and each patient’s unique situation, as well as information from company representatives, company-sponsored continuing medical education (CME) courses and peer-reviewed journals.
“We hope the survey results will help people understand that the simple act of companies working with physicians does not convey that physicians’ decisions will be compromised,” Kate Connors, PhRMA director of communications, told the Coalition for Healthcare Communication. “There are many resources that physicians use to make decisions, and companies clearly can contribute to that dialogue,” she said.
The Coalition supports that position. “It is vital that healthcare professionals receive truthful, accurate information about biopharmaceuticals and medical devices,” said Coalition Executive Director John Kamp. “Interference with that communication will compromise the free flow of information between industry and physicians, which will negatively affect patient care,” he said.
According to PhRMA, 84 percent of physicians indicated that conversations with company reps also give them an opportunity to provide feedback to a company about their experiences with a specific medicine. Further, more than eight in 10 physicians surveyed said they feel positive about the contribution that pharmaceutical and biotech research companies make to healthcare quality.
The survey also addressed physician perspectives regarding company-sponsored CME programs, finding that 76 percent of the physicians surveyed have attended CME programs and found them to be a valid resource for improved clinical knowledge (98 percent), information on potential side effects (97 percent), new uses of medicines (97 percent), treatment options (97 percent) and emerging drug risks (95 percent).
Of physicians who practice in rural areas, 86 percent are especially likely to attend these programs to stay informed about medicines and treatments. “We had a hunch that these programs were very useful for rural physicians, and now the survey shows us that they are,” Connors said.
The survey also appears to show that keeping the lines of communication open between industry and physicians is a worthy goal. “Every part of the communications process is valuable … there is no one path for physicians to stay informed,” Connors added. “Industry needs to continue to be a resource.”