Today, the New York Times has an article about a Cancun weekend for doctors that was sponsored by Evolus, the maker of Jeuveau, touted as “#Newtox,” a competitor for Botox. Over twelve doctors described the Cancun weekend and the new drug in promising, perhaps flattering terms, on their Instagram accounts. The docs shared photos of the flip-flops, water bottles, and beach towels they received, all with the Evolus etched on them. Since Kim Kardashian posted her gushes over an anti-nausea drug during one of her pregnancies, the Federal Trade Commission has required Instagram users to disclose any financial interests they have in or from the companies whose products are the subject of the gushes.
None of the doctors disclosed that the weekend was free thanks to Evolus. The doctors who returned phone calls from the reporter gave the usual doctor explanations when confronted with a conflict: the patient comes first, they study the drugs and issues carefully, they went to Cancun to learn about the drug, that it was a standard advisory board meeting, etc. One doctor had a classic stream of rationalizations, “I use my knowledge and experience to research and evaluate a product and determine whether it’s something I can use in my practice. This has nothing to do with whether the company takes me to dinner or Cancun or what-not.”
The Barometer gives the doctor that — he has more integrity than any doctor who has ever walked the face of the earth or the beaches of Cancun. He puts his patients first. He still has a conflict, and he needs to disclose the dinners, trips, and “what-nots.” This is not a “thorny ethical issue,” it is a very real one. And this ethical issue has been around for too long. For the love of patients, reputation, and the drug companies themselves, disclose, disclose, disclose.