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DB’s Medical Rants deserves a medal for this article and position on interacting with drug company representatives.

Drug companies and my colleagues

My colleagues disagree with my position on drug reps – Just say no to drug reps.

Their arguments concern a capitalistic approach to the pharmaceutical market and the possibility that drug reps make physicians aware of medical advances. One colleague compares drug reps to car salesmen – a comparison that I cannot quite accept.

My problems with drug reps are several. The first comes from the rationale behind pharmaceutical marketing. They are trying to influence us to use their drug. Drug reps use all the classic tools of the psychology of influence (as pioneered by Robert Cialdini).

I object to the unethical marketing that many drug companies encourage.

By refusing to see drug reps, I force myself to seek objective data on new drugs. Those who see drug reps are (in my mind) taking a dangerous shortcut. Given the many revelations about drug companies, how could I trust anything that the reps say? If I cannot trust anything that you say, why should I waste my time to talk with you?

I stand by my previous statement. Drug reps have a job to do. I have a more important job to do. They want me to prescribe their drug – and they really do not seem to care if that drug is appropriate for the patient. I want to find the best and if possible least expensive way to treat my patients. I want to minimize drug use and especially minimize side effects. Since I believe that talking with drug reps could negatively impact my goals, I will continue to refuse seeing them. In doing so, I hope my patients benefit.

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