The “Ethical” Pharmaceutical Sector
I saw an interesting article at Pharmalot about the sales tactics pharmaceutical sales reps use to push products onto doctors. We strictly regulate how lawyers may solicit for clients, but we allow people with no medical degree - and sometimes not even a Bachelor's degree - to recommend which medicines a doctor should prescribe.
"During training, I was told, when you’re out to dinner with a doctor, 'The physician is eating with a friend. You are eating with a client.' " - Shahram Ahari...
Reps may be genuinely friendly, but they are not genuine friends. Drug reps are selected for their presentability and outgoing natures, and are trained to be observant and personable...Personal information may be more important than prescribing prefernces... A photo on a desk presents an opportunity to inquire about family members and memorize whatever tidbits they are offering...Reps scour a doctor's office for objects - a tennis racquet, Russian novels, seventies rock music, fashion magainze, travel mementos, or cultural or religious symbols - that can be used to establish a personal connection with the doctor.
They then list eight different types of doctors: friendly and outgoing; aloof and skeptical; mercenary; high prescribers; prefers a competing drug; acquiescent; no-see, no-time, and finally, the thought leader. And they provide insights into all the methods a sales rep may use to wear down each one in hopes of getting more scrips written.
For instance, with the 'friendly and outgoing doc,' Ahari (that's him to the right) says that he would 'frame everything as a gesture of friendship. I give them free samples not because it's my job, but because I like them so much. I provide office lunches because visiting them is such a pleasant relief from all the other docs. My drugs rarely get mentioned by me during our dinners.
Just being friends with most of my docs seemed to have some natural basic effect on their prescribing habits. When the time is ripe, I lean on my 'friendship' to leverage more patients to my drugs...say, because it'll help me meet quota or it will impress my manager, or its crucial for my career. Outgoing, friendly physicians are every rep's favoriate, because cultivating friendship is a mutual aim. While this may be genuine behavior on the doctor's side, it is usually caclulated on the part of the rep." (Emphasis added.)
I wonder how many victims defective drugs were given their prescription just to help a sales rep "meet quota."
Perhaps Congress should introduce legislation to prohibit pharmaceuticals from giving gifts to physicians - something similar to the crackdown on lobbyists, for example. They could even require them to register as "medical lobbyists."
Cross-posted to Corpreform.com