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The United States today is facing a crisis of greed and distrust in pharmaceutical industry and medical field, leaving physicians and medical professionals to contradict why they have pledged the oath to serve the patient who comes in for help and to never take advantage of the patient’s vulnerability. This oath once followed by physicians and medical professionals, now sheds light on how “physicians have consistently sought to portray themselves as purveyors of a social service, until recently in the United States, they have functioned as small businessmen.” (Churchill) With this realization of a change in persona in the pharmaceutical and medical field, how has it been affected by commercialism? To further emphasize on the pharmaceutical industry and medical research, we must first dive deeper into the Hippocratic Oath, the basis in physician–patient relationship, and how both have been displaced by commercialism.
The ethical role of a physician, known as the Hippocratic Oath, is known by a physician to apply the his or her scientific knowledge to the individual circumstances of the patient and to practice those skills for the good of the patient. Currently, in many countries including the United State, commercialism threatens those professional ethics, leaving many physicians powerless without the support of pharmaceutical industry and their products. Marc A. Rodwin, author and professor from the Suffolk University Law School, emphasizes the points noted above about commercialism in the medical and research field, stating that “the central problem of commercialism in medicine today, as in the past, is physician entrepreneurship. The challenge today is to find ways to cope with conflicts of interest in medicine while preserving those aspects of market and commerce that provide value.” (Rodwin)
Additionally, the main reason for the decline of medical professional values is the growing commercialization of the US health care and pharmaceutical system. Dr. Howard Brody, a professor and director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, writes in his book Hooked: Ethics, the Medical Profession, and the Pharmaceutical Industry about how “modern medicine breaks the trusted physician-patient relationship, being hooked by the pharmaceutical industry without being able to escape from its grasp.” (Brody) He mentions how handouts and rewards influence physician’s decisions, and additionally, medical institutions are becoming more and more dependent on the pharmaceutical industries support. It is also important to remember that pharmaceutical companies also use marketing and drug advertisements to influence patients to ask their physicians about drugs that have been promoted, whether it be on television and radio, thus furthermore promoting the business and money-making scheme of the medical field. Dr. Brody also emphasizes that the revenue made by the drug companies, use those funds for research, but also manipulate the data into favorable results, promoting higher sales and demand of current marketed drugs or medicine. More interestingly, Raffy Chilingerian, Global Program Regulatory Manager in Established Medicine at Novartis Pharmaceutical, agrees that insurance and pharmaceutical companies states that “the power of the pharmaceutical industry, the corrupting influence of commercialism in medicine, is jeopardizing of public trust in medicine.” (Chilingerian)
And that currently, it is reported that many medical physicians and hospitals hold relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, limiting the distribution and care to those that provide the business and revenue financially needed by big pharma companies. Mr. Chilingerian’s arguments are valid, and can be additionally described as reasons to believe commercialism affects the way in which we view the good of health care. That “it is no longer a common good because the market understands commodities as goods designed to satisfy individual desires,” (Kenny) as explained by Nuala Kenny, writer of “Selling Our Souls: The Commercialization of Medicine and Commodification of Care as Challenges to Professionalism.” Furthermore, Ted Mierzwa, Sr. Clinical Compliance Specialist, at Novartis Pharmaceutical, emphasizes that his role, at times, sees hand in hand how commercialized the medical industry really is.
More disturbingly, Mr. Mierzwa describes that despite his position and clinical knowledge of his division, his role is used to utilize the research information, gathered from interaction with physicians and other patient caregivers, he still thinks there a lack of dedication towards research efforts in the pharmaceutical industry. Stating that “much of that research that is driven by marketing rather than by scientific aims, and in the end, leads to high cost for low-quality research.” (Mierzwa)
Additionally, Mr. Mierzwa, dispute not being a physician or doctor, touches on the Hippocratic Oath, and how during his study towards receiving a doctorate of Pharma, we closely honored the Hippocratic Oath and its beliefs. Stating that “the oath is something every doctor, physician and pharmacist should follow. But the pharma companies hold a corr influence of commercialism in medicine, and the jeopardizing of public trust in medicine and the faith in the once followed oath.” (Mierzwa)
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