PHYSICIANS/PHARMA: Fool me once-shame on you. Fool me twice…..er won’t get fooled again? by The Industry Veteran

So there’s been a fair amount of fuss about a new paper by two academics, one a former drug rep, about the tricks big Pharma uses to “fool” physicians when it details them. You may not be impressed and may be willing to blame Pharma with its cheerleader sales reps and beauty queen detailers. The Industry Veteran, in his usual gentle style, assigns blame elsewhere. You have, as usual, been warned!

This newswires and every health care site in the blogosphere carried a story about a former Lilly rep who published an article about the sales tactics that pharma reps use to influence physicians’ prescribing. I’m shocked and horrified — NOT! So pharma reps have been taught Sales Skills 101. What the hell, are physicians such delicate flowers that they must not be subjected to the lures of salesmanship? Sorry if I appear obtuse, but I don’t see anything disreputable if a rep assesses the type of physician he’s seeing and tailors a pitch to that type.

The fact remains that drugs are discovered and distributed everywhere
in the world through a competitive market system. Personal sales serves
as one of the main spokes of that marketing wheel. Why do some people
buy into the chauvinistic ideology of physicians that they must never
serve as targets for marketing? Instead the poor dears must occupy
their minds with more important matters and should remain above the
lessons everyone else learned around the same time we were taught to
cross the street, to wit, that sales pitches constitute part of the
flotsam of everyday life, like farts in an elevator or ice cream bar
wrappers on the street. Imagine, 90,000 Kens and Barbies out there,
traumatizing physicians by making them think that reps are their

I remember when I was a kid, I read several of the
Sherlock Holmes books. Conan Doyle wrote Dr. Watson as a hale and
hearty fellow who was a battlefield surgeon in the Crimean War and
served as the pragmatic implementer for the cerebral Holmes. How did we
devolve to a point, 120 years later, where physicians are so unwordly
that they’ll jeopardize their patients’ health and/or run up bills for
the health care system because of blandishments from cheerleaders in
short skirts? If physicians are unduly influenced by reps, then the
goddamned residency programs should teach MDs (short for Money Driven
or, if you like, Morally Deficient) what the rest of us learned about
waiting for the green light before we walk into the intersection.

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3 replies »

  1. Yes, and, being an attention-market issue coupled with a true market-share fight, obviously big Pharm thinks there’s an advantage to be had with, good grief, the oldest tricks in the book. I can’t think they’d spend all that money (funny how they never mention how eliminating that would allow for more reasonable drug prices) unless they thought it encouraged their stock value.
    So if MDs would stop paying attention and, in fact, bar drug reps from giving them gifts or taking the billing person out to dinner, maybe this would stop.
    But that would assume they WANT it to stop. Which I don’t think we’ve proven here.

  2. > Why do some people buy into the chauvinistic ideology
    > of physicians that they must never serve as targets
    > for marketing?
    According to a book oft-mentioned here on THCB it was not so very long ago, not so far off in the misty mists as the Crimean War, that physicians insisted that drugs ought to be marked only to them.
    The historical echo of this lives on in the term “Ethical Drug” that now means simply “Prescription Required”. But back in the day, physicians considered it unethical to market drugs to consumers/patients, and unethical to market drugs to anyone whose ingredients were not disclosed. An Ethical Drug was marketed only to physicians, and of course its ingredients were disclosed. Physicians who subscribed to the AMA (I think) Code of Ethics promised not to ever recommend an un-ethical drug.
    Could docs end the DTC marketing of prescription drugs? I think I’d like to see them try…