Famous Last Words: Big News for Direct Marketers?
From The Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 20, 2004:
Hospitals Get Tough With Drug Firm Reps
By Fawn Vrazo
Inquirer Staff Writer
The several dozen drug company reps gathered yesterday at a Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania auditorium weren’t there to pitch drugs. They were trying to persuade the Penn system not to pitch them out.
Like other health-system leaders unhappy with practices of drug representatives, Penn officials are considering banning them from talking to doctors at their three hospitals. Drug company freebies such as pens, notepads and the pink cookies marking breast cancer awareness month might be outlawed. “Even token items,” said P.J. Brennan, patient safety chief for the University of Pennsylvania Health System, “can create the impression of a quid pro quo” between doctors and drug sellers.
Ever been in a doctor’s waiting room where an obvious nonpatient was parked in the corner with a satchel of material—a bland-faced young man in a suit and tie or an efficient-looking late-twenty-something yuppie in a sharp skirt and blouse and severe hairdo? These are the “detail men” (or “detail people” I guess is proper in this politically correct era).
These drug company piranhas are waiting for a break in the physician’s schedule so they can pitch their wares, unload a ton of samples, and hand out all kinds of bribes that persuade the doctor to prescribe their company’s drug over that of the competition or the generic version.
The Internet reported a prime-time interview with upstate New York doctor Rudy Mueller who admitted to receiving some $10,000 worth of loot from pharmaceutical companies over just a four-month period—an all-expenses-paid trip to a resort in Florida, dinner cruises, hockey game tickets, a ski trip for the family, Omaha Steaks’ steaks, a day at a spa and free computer equipment. That comes out to an extra $30,000 a year—tax free. “It’s very tempting and they just keep anteing it up,” said Dr. Mueller. “And it’s getting harder to say ‘no.’ I feel in some ways it’s kind of like bribery.”