NEW YORK -- A front-page New York Times article published July 29 questioned whether pharmacists who take money from pharmaceutical manufacturers can remain impartial, as professional ethics would seem to demand.
hose of their competitors. And some doctors and medical ethicists don't like it."
The article mainly concerned Merck/Medco and its "Coordinated Care" program, and did not quote any pharmacists or pharmacy associations. The article also did not clearly distinguish between programs that pay pharmacists to switch drugs and programs that pay pharmacists to counsel patients.
"Traditional medical ethics is being replaced by traditional business ethics," said Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, as quoted in the article. He argued that at the very least any arrangements between pharmacists and drug companies should be explicitly
disclosed to both doctors and customers.
The article also quote Dr. Alan Hillman, director of the Center for Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, who maintained that pharmacy benefit management companies are being bought by pharmaceutical companies precisely so they can have pharmacists and others call and try to get prescriptions changed. "It's not a good development," he said.
Others said they did not see anything wrong with "compensation programs."
Dr. Jerry Wing, professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, was quoted: "Everyone is compensated for what they are doing. If pharmacists are spending time, why not be compensated?
Reaction to the article came from the American Pharmaceutical Association -- which has endorsed Merck/Medco's Coordinated Care program, under which pharmacists are paid to perform some services.
Timothy Vordenbaumen, APhA president, wrote in a letter to the Times that because the newspaper did not obtain the opinion of pharmacists and pharmacy associations, "an appropriate and defensible evolution in the role of pharmacists has been turned inside out so that it falsely has been made into a sensationalistic issue of ethics and greed."