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Executive Summary

NARD CONSUMER POLL OF PHARMACY PREFERENCES: consumers prefer purchasing Rx drugs at pharmacies rather than from physicians, by a ratio of four to one. A Roper poll commissioned by NARD asked, "Would you prefer to buy your medications at a pharmacy or at your doctor's office?" Sixty-one percent of the 1988 consumers surveyed indicated a preference for pharmacy purchase. Only 16% of the consumers preferred the doctor, while 17% volunteered that the choice did not matter and 5% indicated they did not know. The survey also found that three times as many respondents consider physician dispensing inherently a conflict of interest. Whereas 62% of those polled indicated the practice poses a conflict, 21% said it does not and 17% said they did not know. In addition, more than twice as many respondents indicated that pharmacists know more about drugs than doctors than vice-versa. Fifty-two percent said pharmacists know more than physicians, 21% said doctors know more than pharmacists, another 21% said pharmacists and doctors have the same drug knowledge, and 6% had no opinion. NARD Executive VP Charles West declared that the survey results "confirm the widespread anecdotal evidence" of the consumer preference for pharmacist dispensing. Roper Senior VP Janet Schneider explained that the nationwide poll of 1,988 adults was conducted Dec. 5-12 by interviews at the participants' homes. Before questions were posed, respondents were handed a card with the following printed preface: "Salesmen who buy prescription drugs and repackage them are now urging physicians to increase their income by selling prescription drugs directly to patients rather than writing a prescription for a pharmacist to fill." Noting that "various groups have different views on this subject," the preface presented three statements: "The American Medical Association says that if physicians sell prescription drugs to patients, the patients lose the check and balance safeguard that they get when they use an independent pharmacist." "The Consumer Federation of America says if doctors are going to provide prescription drugs directly to their patients, they should do so as a service, for example, giving out samples, but not making a profit." "Doctors who sell prescription drugs to patients for profit say they are doing so for the convenience of their patients." Asked whether the preface biased the survey results, Schneider replied: As a general polling principle, respondents are not asked questions "before you've told them what's involved." She added that "the methods are quite compelling here, and, while there might have been a difference" in the results had the preface been altered, the difference "would not have been significant."

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