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What happens when your doctor accepts a free meal from a pharma rep

When doctors get wined and dined by pharma salespeople, they are more likely to prescribe the drugs they promote than a generic alternative. That’s according to a new study from researchers at UC San Francisco, which was published online today in JAMA Internal Medicine

Just one meal is enough to influence a doctor’s behavior, the study found. And that’s a big problem: Payments for doctors’ food and beverages are the most frequent type of industry payments to physicians in the U.S., Dr. Robert Steinbrook, an editor at JAMA Internal Medicine and a professor at Yale University School of Medicine, told Reuters Health. 

And that might be driving up overall health care costs, as these drugs are less likely to be covered by insurance. Colette DeJong, a UCSF medical student who helped analyze data for the study, adds that elderly people enrolled in Medicare “pay an average monthly co-pay of $40 to $80 for brand-name drugs, but only $1 for generics.”CF