SPOKANE, Wash. — Is Hippocrates choking on a pill? That’s the question to be addressed at the May 9 meeting of the Spokane Health Care Leaders Group.
Presenter Bruce Howard, regional account manager for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, will look at the pathway of prescription drugs as they make their way from the manufacturer to the consumer.

The discussion, scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m., will be held in room 110C of the Health Sciences Building on WSU Spokane’s Riverpoint campus, 310 N. Riverpoint Blvd. It is free and open to the public.

The presentation will describe the numerous intermediaries involved in pharmaceutical delivery in America, the problems inherent in this pathway that may cause over consumption of pharmaceuticals and cost-ineffective increases in health care costs, and potential solutions.

Examples of subjects to be addressed:

–The consumer has been directly targeted in pharmaceutical marketing. Where does this leave the physician-patient relationship? Studies indicate that direct consumer advertising can jeopardize the provider’s important role in choosing appropriate treatments and can dramatically increase, sometimes inappropriately, the use of certain medications. Direct-to-consumer advertising has risen to nearly $3 billion a year in the United States. Clearly such advertising impacts prices.

–Providers are being offered inducements from drug companies to favor one product over another. Some drug companies have taken steps to eliminate inappropriate financial inducements.

–For a variety of reasons, the system is biased toward the use of “pills” rather than the use of preventive therapies such as diet and exercise. Scientific evidence indicates that preventive therapies would lead to a significant savings in the cost of medical care. However, preventive therapies are not covered under traditional health insurance because member turnover creates uncertainty as to the return on investment for such therapies.

From the perspective of the pharmaceutical industry, the discussion will address ways to fix the problems in the system and increase the use of important preventive strategies.

The presentation is co-sponsored by the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce Health Care Committee and the department of health policy and administration at Washington State University Spokane. The Health Care Leaders Group is chaired by Deb Harper, MD, and Kelli Pearson, DC, and is facilitated by Melissa Ahern, PhD, associate professor in the department of health policy and administration at WSU Spokane. For more information on the HPA program, see HPA.