An important implication of this study is how does one present discounted drugs to patients without them thinking they are inferior, Ariely said. "How do we give discounted drugs to people we want to give discounted drugs without giving them the negative side effects?" he asked.
The problem is having people understand the price of the drug is not a function of the effectiveness of the drug. Ariely wonders if discounted drugs and small co-pays give people the impression that the drugs are of lower quality.
One way of reducing the effect of cost on the perception of efficacy is when patients understand why they are getting the discounts they are getting, Ariely said. Another strategy is for doctors to explain to their patients the benefits of the drug and that cost is not related to the performance of the drug.
One expert agreed that price is tied to perceived value, whether it involves cars or drugs. Overcoming the perception about drugs and price is something that doctors can help patients do.
"These findings fit exactly with the way we Americans are," said Daniel E. Moerman, the William E. Stirton Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, in Dearborn. "We all think expensive cars are better, but even a cheap car will get you to the store."
Moerman thinks that since price plays such a pivotal role in people's perception of drug efficacy, many people probably doubt the quality and efficacy of generic drugs.
Although generic drugs are pharmacologically the same as brand-name drugs, "meaningfully, I can't help it, they are not the same," Moerman said. "This means that physicians are going to have to compensate in some other way."
Doctors need to take the time to educate their patients about the benefit of the medication they are prescribing, Moerman said.
"If you have patients whose drugs are shifting t
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