Here is some good news on the doctor-patient relationship front.  Research has shown that gifts from drug companies influence doctors prescribing habits.

New York Times, May 6, 2008 

To the Editor:

The Association of American Medical Colleges should be applauded for its proposal to prohibit companies from offering free food, gifts and other perks to doctors, staff members and students at medical colleges.

The Permanente Medical Group is the country’s largest medical group, with more than 6,000 physicians. We are committed to the principle that the doctor-patient relationship is sacred, and that any decisions about prescriptions must be made without the undue influence of pharmaceutical companies.

Two years ago, we established a policy that prohibits our physicians from accepting any gifts from pharmaceutical representatives — including attending dinners or conferences — because we recognize that the tactics used by the drug companies inappropriately influence which medications are prescribed for patients.

We encourage all doctors to join with us and refuse to be involved in the subtle strategies of the pharmaceutical companies. These strategies have little do with improving education and everything to do with maximizing their profit.

Robert Pearl
Oakland, Calif., April 29, 2008

The writer, a physician, is chief executive of the Permanente Medical Group.