Isn’t your Health Worth a Free Lunch?

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This post will proabably NOT be a fun read for most folks. However, it’s a topic near and dear to my heart. You’ve no doubt seen the recent headlines proclaiming, “Dr.’s still receiving gifts from pharmaceutical companies.” If you read the articles, it’s obvious that the intent is to show that pharma company influence doctors to prescribe their medications by enticing them with gifts. But what the articles don’t generally tell you, are how these gifts are given and what they Dr. does to get them.

A little history though first: Yes, years ago there was a lot of gift giving and glad-handing going on and yes, watchdog groups did a generally good thing by bringing these practices to light and significantly slowing them down. But we’re to a point now where the regulations are adversely affecting the industry, much as we’ve seen with tobacco industry. I mean, when a company is forced to spend money asking people NOT to use their product, aren’t we going the wrong way for a capitalistic society?

The FDA has placed strict limits on what can/can’t be given to Dr.’s in return for their ear. Here are the general guidelines–what you won’t see in the article:

  • Lunch: Sales reps can bring lunch to the Dr.’s office for him/her and their staff. Now here’s the thing about lunch. How long do you spend with your Dr. actually talking? 5 minutes? Maybe 7? And when you go home at night, how much time do you spend educating yourself about your industry? personally, I spend almost no time outside the office thinking about work. It’s the same for Doctors. The only time they have to educate themselves about new drugs, is when they are in the office. So is it so wrong for a sales rep to say,

    Hey, I’ll bring in lunch and let’s you and me sit down for 10 minutes and
    talk about this drug and what it does and does not do.”

  • Payment for speaking: Every industry hold conferences where you can learn about the latest new widget and how to use it. No difference for the medical field. In fact, I want a Dr. that knows what’s going on out there rather than someone who graduated from med school 10 years ago and hasn’t brushed up on his skills since then. What happens here is that a pharma company pays a Dr. to speak at a conference on a particular topic. Now, that topic obviously relates to some medical condition that the pharma company has a medication for. But here’s the kicker that these “anti-pharma” articles don’t tell you: The doctor cannot mention the pharma company by name during his presentation, nor can he pitch their drug. So, even though Big Pharma Company A is paying a Dr. to speak on hemmorhoids and the treatment of said inflammations, they’re getting no promotion out of it other than maybe public awareness.

And folks, that’s pretty much it unless a Dr. does research for a pharma company, which isn’t really anyone’s concern since it doesn’t influence what medications he or she prescribes.

See, they’re not so bad really. Are there doctors who try and abuse the system and will there always be someone out there who lets them get away with it? Yes, but no more so than any other industry. I just don’t get these socialists who think that our healthcare system would be better off if Sales Reps didn’t promote their products. I don’t think they understand how many jobs would be affected (sales, research, general office staff) if our capitalistic healthcare system went the way of our friends up in the great frozen north (Canada).

Next time you’re sick and want to see the doctor, try this little experiment. Call a general practitioner in Canada and see how long it takes you to get in. And then call your doctor. And later that day when you’re driving to the pharmacy and paying your $10 co-pay for a miracle drug that’s gonna fix you up, thank a pharma company. Just try it…

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