Thursday, March 27, 2008

What Drug Reps Really Care About

In the Carlat Psychiatry Blog, Dr Daniel Carlat summarized a talk on tactics used by drug representatives by former Eli Lilly rep Shahram Ahari . Some key quotes:
  • "Gift giving is the key. You are programmed as a human to reciprocate. You feel obliged to return the favor."
  • " Samples are a marketing tool. They always have strings attached. Typically, we would provide two weeks worth of samples, which worked out wonderfully. Just like a drug dealer, the first one is free, and then you’re hooked."
  • " We had a $60,000 budget for food, and we used this to make ourselves seem a necessity to clinics who wanted to make their staff happy."
  • "I was in your office in order to influence you to prescribe Prozac or Zyprexa. We focussed on providing information to manipulate your prescribing, not to teach you how to treat your patients. Mostly, we wanted to build a good relationship, so that you’d like us. We are the one spot of sunshine in your day, a person who steps in the door and is actually interested in how you’re doing. We’re fun, witty, attractive, and we come bearing gifts. No wonder we’re accepted into your offices."

Remember, the drup representative's job is to market drugs. He or she is not there to educate the physician. He or she may appear to a beleaguered physician to be the one person who actually cares, but what the drug rep really cares about is selling drugs. He or she is no more naturally the physician's friend than is a hospital administrator or a managed care functionary. Some drug reps are naturally nice people. Some may care about education. Some may really be friends with physician. But they are all trained to appear to be physicians' friends. Physicians uncritically accept this appearance as reality at their and their patients' peril.


Anonymous said...

A couple of points from the business side. Marketing is the who and how many part of business. Selling is the feet on the ground, move the product, you are paid a commission on the number of units you sell part of business.

Drug reps never have friends, they only have clients. To think anything else is simply wrong. Yes, they are nice people. Yes, they remember much about your life. Yes, they will at least pretend you have shared interest.

No, they are not your friend. They are there to manipulate your behavior to produce sales of their product. I personally feel many suburban doctor's offices reflect pharma's corporate culture. More recently I have read where some feel these offices have become pharma's retail outlets. We are both driving at the same point: When drug reps are a part of the office culture, they do impact the way a doctor practices medicine.

Steve Lucas

Jack Rusley said...

Shahram is coming to speak at Brown, along with Allan Coukell from the Prescription Project. E-mail for more info.


Anonymous said...

I've spoken with Ahari and his statements are honest, as this is the way with all big pharma companies. And you continue this way until you awake, which is what he did.