A recent article in the AARP Bulletin highlighted an email of a drug company's inside commentary on drug representatives and their impact on physicians' practices. Congress was on this subject of how doctors obtain information years ago, and rather than mandating legislation, the Pharma Industry limited themselves. Now the irony here is that, all the Pharma Industry now advertises the millions and millions of dollars for their new drugs on television, cable and non-cable, radio, and the print media. How many ads of erectile dysfunction have you seen or watched in the last few years? What about allergy drugs? Those ads seem to be everywhere also.
Meanwhile, most doctors get some of their information from drug company representatives. The doctors of yesteryear were wined and dined – alot. But all that has changed. Company meetings for continuing medical information and education are sponsored for cost. However, the rules are tight. No trips to Hawaii have ever been offered to me, in 25 years or so.
Now the medical appliance industry, like the artificial hips, pacemakers, etc., are not included in the Pharma SELF-imposed rules. This industry works like many others. Recently my awareness was stretched when a person told me ALL hundreds of employees of a beer industry were wined and dined, golfed, and brought to a city with alot of casinos! All on the company. And recently a marketing company took hundreds of employees to another city for 3-4 days, for their needs.
Now, most doctors do like to see drug representatives. We do get good and current information from the reps. If the doctor has a brain, he or she will and can challenge the drug rep with his product, his information, and his competition. This is good information.
Literally, thousands of patients through the years have asked for "Any free samples?" Many times we can accomodate some starter paks of medicines that have been given to us by the pharmaceutical representatives. Most clinics get some samples for patients. According to a recent study over 75% of clinics get free samples. Many times the reps will sponsor quick to the point luncheons. Some doctors join company panels to discuss the highlights and controversies of new therapy. So, what is the big deal?
Most pharmaceutical reps are good people. Most earn their living by providing information currently and timely. Most doctors are good people. Most earn their living by providing good patient care. Most patients are good people. Most enjoy and sincerely appreciate a "few samples" to start their drug regimen.
Now, with the costs of drugs so high, and the pressure on the drug companies to limit free samples or starter paks, it would seem to be soon – a policy that will be forced out. This will be a loss for the underinsured, uninsured, family of four parents, and others that look at the costs in general of healthcare and delay or eliminate their prescription all together.
The billions of dollars spent on "direct-consumer-advertising" that is endorsed by the FDA and other federal, state, and societal organizations is the first place to cut drug costs. Those ads drive the physician by patient requests. Get rid of direct to consumer advertising. Next, get rid of the massive class action suits against all the companies. The U.S. has driven the vaccine industry out of the U.S. and the drug making is not far behind. If the vaccine shortage concerns did not awaken some fear in you, this should.
So, soon, patients will say good bye to free samples, free starter cost reduction cards, and reduced up to date physician information.
As for me, trips, rock n' roll collections, and tennis racquets have not crossed my desk….And to say they do is just crazy by a biased author. And some of the doctors will stay "chummy" with professional colleagues in the pharmaceutical representative business. Some might call that professional interaction and ethical education…