(HealthDay News) – Close to 40% of physicians sometimes or often acquiesce to patient demands for brand-name drugs, even when generic drugs are available, according to a research letter published online Jan. 7 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Eric G. Campbell, PhD, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues examined data from a national survey of 1,891 participants (64% response rate) in a random sample of 2,938 physicians in seven specialties, to assess the frequency with which physicians comply with patient requests to prescribe brand-name drugs when generic drugs are available.

The researchers found that, among all respondents, 37% sometimes or often prescribed a brand-name drug instead of a generic drug. Factors associated with this acquiescence included being in practice >30 years vs. ≤10 years (43% vs. 31%) and working solo or in a two-person practice vs. working in a hospital or medical school setting (46% vs. 35%). Compared with internal medicine physicians, pediatricians, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, and general surgeons were significantly less likely to acquiesce to patient demands. Physicians who sometimes or often met with industry representatives were significantly more likely to acquiesce, as were physicians who received free food and/or beverages in the work place and those who received drug samples.

“Approximately four of 10 physicians report that they sometimes or often prescribe a brand-name drug to a patient when a generic is available because the patient wanted it,” the authors write. “These numbers suggest that the unnecessary costs associated with this practice to the health care system could be substantial.”

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