No Free Samples?

According to a story in this week’s Albuquerque Alibi, UNM’s Health Sciences Center which includes UNM Hospital and the medical school, has adopted new restrictions to eliminate drug advertising in the University’s medical buildings. While those who see drug companies as evil subversives working to snooker doctors and their patients into purchasing their latest and greatest drug, it would seem that this is yet another effort by a University to stifle free speech.
After all, who is going to tell doctors what new drugs and treatment possibilities are out there? Are they supposed to hunt these treatments down on the internet? How about patients? Are drug companies’ advertisements (also under attack by those who dislike the pharmaceuticals industry) now the only way they can find out about new treatments?
The fact is that if we had a health care system that functioned more like a market with consumers able to price various options (using a consumer-directed mechanism like an HSA) rather than being shielded from them by health insurance or government programs, the so-called “problem” with drug advertising would largely disappear. After all, if it is patients who decide whether to use a generic drug or the latest name brand drug, they should be able to use it since they are paying for it. In fact, opponents of drug advertising justify their position due to the higher cost associated with name-brand drugs.