Objective: To evaluate the influence of primary care physicians' attitudes toward and use of information provided by pharmaceutical representatives on prescribing costs in ambulatory practice.
Design: A mailed questionnaire collected information about physician demographic and practice characteristics and attitudes toward and use of information provided by pharmaceutical representatives.
Participants: Kentucky physicians practicing primary care adult medicine (family medicine, general practice, general medicine; n = 1603).
Main outcome measure: Relative cost of prescribing, based on physician responses to treatment choices for ambulatory clinical scenarios in primary care. A multivariable regression model assessed predictive relationships between independent variables and prescription costs.
Results: Four hundred forty-six returned questionnaires were suitable for analysis. No significant differences were noted in age, gender, days worked per week, or years since graduation between responders and a sample of nonresponders. A significant positive correlation was found between physician cost of prescribing and perceived credibility, availability, applicability, and use of information provided by pharmaceutical representatives (P < .01, Pearson's Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient). Physicians in academic or hospital-based practice settings had significantly lower prescribing costs than physicians in nonacademic and nonhospital practices (P = .001, analysis of variance). Frequency of use of information provided by pharmaceutical representatives (P = .01, multiple linear regression) and the group practice setting (P = .02, multiple linear regression) remained significant, independent positive predictors of cost in the multivariable regression model.
Conclusions: Frequency of use of information provided by pharmaceutical representatives and the group practice, nonacademic and nonhospital setting may be associated with increased primary care physician prescribing costs.