November 19, 2007

PLoS Medicine: How Drug Reps Make Friends and Influence Doctors

Clinical Cases and Images shares a refreshing insight into the manipulative drug rep mentality from the POV of an ex-drug rep.

This article reminded me a lot of a book a friend loaned to me about the way physicians are "bought out" to sell drugs. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of that book now... but it made some good points that made me wary of drug reps before I entered medical school.The thrust of the book was that it is unethical to accept gifts from drug reps because they would unconsciously influence prescription writing in their favor. Doctors are not as objective as they would like to think.

However, I was met with an uncomfortable scenario as early as my third day of orientation week in medical school. We had a recruitment fair and some organizations gave out "free stuff" with pharmaceutical names stamped all over them. I wanted free stuff. I didn't want to turn my Ethical Upbringing into a big deal. As a result, I came up with this reluctant compromise... I would be OK accepting small gifts (pens, pads of paper, etc.) as long as I erased the name from their free products.

I bought some acetone that afternoon and scrubbed the names off of those products. I can tune out the names pretty well... but I do feel conflicted if I learn about a new drug in school and I go "hey, that's just like the name on those sticker tabs!" I'd like to come up with a better solution for dealing with drug reps when it really counts.

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