Doctors in the UK and the US are given cash pay-outs to prescribe more drugs—in the UK, doctors get up to 20 per cent of their annual income from these incentives. But the drugs don’t work, and aren’t helping the patient live a longer life, a damning new report has discovered.
The incentives cost UK taxpayers around £1 bn annually—and the average family doctor can earn, on average, an extra £17,000 ($21,711) a year to prescribe drugs for a range of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.
But the patient isn’t benefiting. A major review of cash-for-prescriptions schemes has found that the drugs aren’t helping the patient live a longer life or reducing the rate of hospital admissions for conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
And the researchers from the University of Medicine School of Public Health didn’t take into account the adverse reactions and side effects the drugs routinely cause, which is an added burden on healthcare systems.
Cash-for-prescriptions schemes operate in many developed countries, but the researchers focused on the UK’s program, called Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), which was introduced in 2004. Comparing populations and diseases targeted by QOF in countries that had an incentive scheme and others that didn’t, the researchers discovered that the drugs hadn’t improved longevity levels. “Extensive research into pay-for-performance programs has yet to show clear patient benefits,” the researchers said.
QOF was designed to encourage doctors to prescribe ‘proven’ drugs to treat chronic diseases before they worsened and needed hospital care. But the proof has come from trials funded by the manufacturer—and independent research is showing they offer very little benefit, if any at all. As the researchers noted, “evidence from clinical trials might not translate into patient benefits in the real world.”
(Source: The Lancet, 2018; 388: 268-74)
What Doctors Don’t Tell You
According to the 2011 UN Drug Report, the United States consumes 75% of the worlds medications. Staggering statistic considering we make up 5% of the world population. The United States is one the few countries where they allow direct-to-consumer advertising. Unfortunately today, big pharma equals big money. I’m all about evidence based medicine and for medicine when called for, though I always work from a conservative approach. In just another month we’ll start seeing the propaganda of the yearly flu shot being pushed. Pushed hard with minimal evidence of real benefit. Some doctors have become drug pushers and can care less for finding real answers for their patients. “The best doctors give the least medicine,” Benjamin Franklin.
Check out the documentary “Prescription Thugs”