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Pushing Drugs

How medical marketing influences doctors and patients

11:28am, July 25, 2005

When John D. Abramson was practicing family medicine in Hamilton, Mass., he prided himself on how conscientiously he selected the drugs that he prescribed. He closely followed pharmaceutical research. He kept track of the latest medical guidelines. And he maintained his distance when company salespeople, with promotional pitches at the ready, appeared at the practice that Abramson shared with several colleagues during the 1980s and 1990s. He typically didn't speak to pharmaceutical sales agents, although he did let them leave behind free samples of drugs that their companies sold.

Abramson knew that the companies wanted him and his colleagues to prescribe new and often expensive drugs rather than their older, less costly alternatives. But he saw no harm in stockpiling the freebies and handing them out to patients who were without health insurance and unable to buy drugs on their own.

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