Does “Big Pharma” Control Veterinarians?

Would I, as a veterinarian, recommend a drug because a “big pharma” company was pressuring me? Although my answer to this question is heck no, a recent article from Reuters claims that in the face of these pressures, veterinarians like myself will fold. Rather than expressing my anger at this insult through a string of pseudo-French words, I will detail in this blog post why we veterinarians are capable of administering medications solely in the best interests of the animal.

When I am dealing with a farmer’s livestock I have two overarching considerations–the welfare of the animals and the financial well-being of the farmer. If the animals are not well, we all feel bad. If the farmer can’t earn a living then he can’t keep a home for the animals.

Therefore, when I have to treat an animal or a group of animals, I select the treatment that will work. Sometimes this is a medication, sometimes this is changing a certain management technique, but usually a combination of both. If that treatment doesn’t work, then the animals suffer more and the farmer loses more money. And I look like an idiot until I can get the treatment right.

So now we circle back to the pressure from “Big Pharma”. Reuters claims since drug companies advertise by providing a lunch, by funding a research study, or if they sponsor a scholarship, it will lead to veterinarians having “conflicting allegiances” between our patients and the drug companies. They claim I’m in this category, because I received a scholarship sponsored by a drug company in vet school and I ate a pulled pork sandwich at a lunch meeting.

No matter how delicious it was, why would I use a drug because somebody bought me a pork sandwich? My clients pay my salary, not the drug company, based upon the well-being of their animals. If I only use a treatment because the drug company is pushing for me too, chances are I’m going to look like an idiot more frequently than Kanye West. Using a medication simply because a drug company wanted to sell it is a great way for a vet to end up asking “Do you want fries with that?” five hundred times a day instead of doing vet work.

Burger on the Grill

On the other hand, I would really like being able to munch on tasty burgers all day.

Contrary to the press hype, the drug company reps that visit my clinic have absolutely no desire to push sketchy medications for using in cattle. Anyone who has actually worked with the FDA knows the process of drug approval is highly scrutinized and takes ten or more years. Most importantly, we eat the animals we put theses medications into. If we had ANY worries about them, why would we expose ourselves to them?

Although it is not as exciting of a story as a high-profile corporate cover-up, veterinarians are simply people in a business that uses antibiotics and want to do it the right way. In a world that has human starvation, terrorism, and a long list of other issues, why doesn’t this press organization focus on real problems instead of creating feature articles based on male bovine excrement? Sorry, my pseudo-French popped out.

A pile of male bovine excrement

But trust me, I know B.S. when I see it.

I’m not pretending there are never bad actors in veterinary medicine. That’s why I wholeheartedly support our state and federal officials enforcing the laws we have to root out the problems (because society generally frowns upon vigilante castrations). But accusing my entire profession of being nothing more than lackeys just to sell newspapers is disgusting. It goes to show yellow journalism is far from dead.



One response to “Does “Big Pharma” Control Veterinarians?

  1. Thanks for this! In my practice, I was inclined to view claims by drug companies with healthy skepticism–especially after being burned (some still call it ‘being Mercked’) a few times. No matter how good the dinner, I’d trust my own experience and that of talented colleagues over drug company brochures. But when a drug came out that truly made animals’ lives better, I’d become its biggest cheerleader.
    The Reuters article was junk journalism–click bait for folks who favor controversy over fact. I was very happy to see the response by the AVMA president calling it just that.

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