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Pharmaceutical Companies are Responsible for Creating Prescription Mills

Ahmed Otokiti, MD, MBA, MPH writes about the impact of abuse of telemedicine and patient safety with online prescription-based platforms.

Pharmaceutical companies are capitalizing on the pandemic’s telehealth explosion with “innovative” and questionable ways of pushing medications to patients. The usual big pharma T.V drug advertisement that ends with “ask your doctor if a drug X” is suitable for you is now replaced with a targeted online ad that bears the button that reads “talk to a doctor now” below the advert. Once you click to talk to a doctor, you are directed to a third-party telemedicine site contracted by pharmaceutical companies to serve as a prescription dispensing mill.

 

Pharmaceutical companies are capitalizing on the pandemic’s telehealth explosion with “innovative” and questionable ways of pushing medications to patients. Click To Tweet

 

Almost 90% of people that click the button get their intended prescriptions from these online companies. They prescribe Medications ranging from Adderall to SSRIs and Viagra.

There are many ethical questions about these online prescription-only pharma-sponsored telemedicine platforms as they force their clinicians to prescribe more drugs to increase the bottom line at the expense of patient safety. They also mislead patients with online marketing to lure them into their funnel.

For example, diagnosing ADHD that requires treatment with stimulants is more involved than just filling out an online questionnaire and getting a truckload of Adderall, which is pretty much what is happening on these platforms. So much that Cerebal, one of these online platforms, is under Federal investigation for shady prescription practices.

 

There are many ethical questions about online prescription-only pharma-sponsored telemedicine platforms as they force their clinicians to prescribe more drugs to increase the bottom line at the expense of patient safety. Click To Tweet

 

Digital health 360° lens

Although our healthcare is broken and we need innovative ways of doing things, innovation without caution and guardrails is a recipe for disaster in healthcare, unlike in retail or finance.

These online prescription mills increase access to care and reduce the time to get prescriptions. These platforms are here to stay, and the train has left the station. However, the main concern is still the same issue of profit over human safety. Some medications they prescribe are highly potent drugs like stimulants that are dangerous if not indicated.

The unanswered question remains; How do we “wake up” the regulators to put forward guardrails to protect patients from harm with this unstoppable trend?

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