Pot, Meet Kettle

At the start of next year, the drug companies will no longer be giving pens and pads of paper to doctors.  The rules regarding pharmaceutical sales practices have grown progressively more stringent over the past few years.  The FDA already regulates what the reps say to physicians (they may only assert what is in the PI, or package insert).  Now they will be very limited on other contact with physicians.
Thank goodness.  Those pens and pads of paper were sending subliminal messages to me.  I hear them talking to me in my sleep.  I just have an insatiable need to prescribe unnecessary medications because of a ballpoint.  It will be good to get out of this marketing hell these reps have put me in.

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Citizens are worried about the influence these companies are having over us physicians, wondering if their efforts to influence are driving up the cost of care.  One online petition site states:

Drug marketing is out of control. Help send a message to Congress.
Support the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which will require drug companies to publicly report their gifts and payments to doctors.
Drug companies spend at least $25 billion each year marketing to doctors. We pay for that with every drug we buy. And studies prove that marketing causes doctors to prescribe higher-cost drugs. Some new drugs also have safety risks (like Vioxx). By increasing transparency, the Sunshine Act will help protect patients and help counter the skyrocketing costs of drugs.

Congress is also getting involved:

While it\’s no secret that pharmaceutical companies lavish gifts on doctors — everything from free notepads and pens to meals to the more extravagant paid trips or seminars — most patients are in the dark about who, exactly, is courting their physicians. But Congress may be finally acknowledging this relationship, one important step toward creating a national gift registry so patients can track the perks Big Pharma is giving to their doctors.

In June, the nonprofit government watchdog Public Citizen testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging in favor of federal legislation that would require drug companies to disclose payments to doctors. But the group urged lawmakers, before jumping on the proposal, to examine a Petri dish of existing disclosure laws. Although four states and the District of Columbia already have disclosure laws on the books, the group says they are \”inadequate\” and do not give patients a clear picture of how money is changing hands.

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I do understand this concern.  Advertising works, and there are definite financial reasons for the drug industry\’s aggressive marketing to doctors.  The pressure seems to be working, as witnessed by the pen and paper ban.

I guess it is appropriate congress is getting involved, since they are very familiar with the influence the drug companies can have over people and their behavior.  From the Wall Street Journal:

Health Industry Pours Money Into Democratic Convention

The health-care industry has a lot at stake in Washington these days. Maybe that’s why the list of the Democratic convention’s host-committee sponsors is so full of big players from the health sector.

Among them: Merck, Amgen, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Mylan, Medtronic — (pause for breath) — Abbott, Walgreen, UnitedHealth, Eli Lilly and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Nor are the companies letting the money do the talking. The CEOs of Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Amgen and Merck are all making appearances in Denver this week, reports FDA Legislative Watch.

And Pfizer was among the million-dollar donors that landed skyboxes at Invesco Field for Obama’s big speech Thursday, the Dallas Morning News reports.

As we noted earlier this year, the sector has shifted to favor Democrats over Republicans recently. But that doesn’t mean the Democrats are getting everything: There will be plenty of industry money sloshing around Minneapolis – St. Paul next week for the Republican convention.

\"bribe\" Hmm….  I smell hypocrisy here.  Isn\’t this problem of at least equal importance to the short-skirted drug reps and gawking doctors?  Is the lack of pens and paper in my office (which will boost the local economy as we go to Staples to buy it for ourselves) such a great accomplishment when Pharma (and every other industry) is buying influence with our government?

I don\’t really care about the pens, but it seems a much bigger issue to me that corporate America has bought our legislators and are trying to influence our President.  These are the people who are going to reform healthcare?  These are the people who have a vision of how things need to be?

I\’ve got an idea: let\’s start a petition to prohibit them from giving pens and pads of paper to politicians.

29 thoughts on “Pot, Meet Kettle”

  1. This is self regulation by the drug companies to give the appearance of ‘clamping down’ while the money dole out to speakers, thought leaders, researchers, and others that are on the payroll stays untouched. It buys Pharma some time and keeps the lawmakers off of their backs – while egregiously greasing the wheels.
    In the end, we need pharma (docs) as much as they need us – can’t we all just get along?

  2. This is self regulation by the drug companies to give the appearance of ‘clamping down’ while the money dole out to speakers, thought leaders, researchers, and others that are on the payroll stays untouched. It buys Pharma some time and keeps the lawmakers off of their backs – while egregiously greasing the wheels.
    In the end, we need pharma (docs) as much as they need us – can’t we all just get along?

  3. As for me, I’ll miss collecting pens for psychotropic medications (guess I’ll have to think of something new to collect)

  4. As for me, I’ll miss collecting pens for psychotropic medications (guess I’ll have to think of something new to collect)

  5. Interesting post. As a resident I’ve heard two sides of this argument. One states that no matter how subtle the marketing (marked pens, unmarked food), it works at a subconscious level and should be avoided. Some say that since we can’t get rid of all advertising (TV ads? Newsprint? Educational materials? Pharma sponsored research?), the best thing to do is to take it all on, and learn to desensitize ourselves.
    While the jury is still out, I avoid the pens, eat the food, and drop any ‘new research’ doled out by drug reps into the trash can.

  6. Interesting post. As a resident I’ve heard two sides of this argument. One states that no matter how subtle the marketing (marked pens, unmarked food), it works at a subconscious level and should be avoided. Some say that since we can’t get rid of all advertising (TV ads? Newsprint? Educational materials? Pharma sponsored research?), the best thing to do is to take it all on, and learn to desensitize ourselves.
    While the jury is still out, I avoid the pens, eat the food, and drop any ‘new research’ doled out by drug reps into the trash can.

  7. some dude named steevo

    “most patients are in the dark about who, exactly, is courting their physicians.
    Well, I was never elected anyones’ physician and whomever courts me is my own business. Our government is at a near historic level of corruption yet few in the public seem to care.

    I will gladly give up my free pens when politicians give up their “cash donations to the re-election fund.”

    I will gladly give up the pads of paper if congress would limit direct to patient advertising.

  8. some dude named steevo

    “most patients are in the dark about who, exactly, is courting their physicians.
    Well, I was never elected anyones’ physician and whomever courts me is my own business. Our government is at a near historic level of corruption yet few in the public seem to care.

    I will gladly give up my free pens when politicians give up their “cash donations to the re-election fund.”

    I will gladly give up the pads of paper if congress would limit direct to patient advertising.

  9. Well, I don’t know. My clinical preceptor last year used to take the free samples for his poorer patients. Once a patient, trying to read the script, said something like, “Oh, like the pen you’re using!” My preceptor laughed, and afterwards swore to me that the free gifts didn’t affect his prescribing habits.
    As for Big Pharma (and others) lining the coffers of Congress, both the House and Senate recently revised their ethics rules to prohibit the accepting of any gifts. It severely impacted the lunch seminar series I did this past summer, as the interns working in Congressional offices were not allowed to attend, nor even contact the rest of us.

  10. Well, I don’t know. My clinical preceptor last year used to take the free samples for his poorer patients. Once a patient, trying to read the script, said something like, “Oh, like the pen you’re using!” My preceptor laughed, and afterwards swore to me that the free gifts didn’t affect his prescribing habits.
    As for Big Pharma (and others) lining the coffers of Congress, both the House and Senate recently revised their ethics rules to prohibit the accepting of any gifts. It severely impacted the lunch seminar series I did this past summer, as the interns working in Congressional offices were not allowed to attend, nor even contact the rest of us.

  11. I work in a mental health non-profit. I don’t know about influence, but I do know that we have a very limited office supply budget, and giveaways are how we get a majority of them. Now, I will get to buy them myself on a social worker’s salary 🙁

  12. I work in a mental health non-profit. I don’t know about influence, but I do know that we have a very limited office supply budget, and giveaways are how we get a majority of them. Now, I will get to buy them myself on a social worker’s salary 🙁

  13. what! you’re telling me I can’t have my stash of drug company paraphenalia anymore?? I have a prenate pen in my purse right now that i love!

  14. what! you’re telling me I can’t have my stash of drug company paraphenalia anymore?? I have a prenate pen in my purse right now that i love!

  15. Limiting pens and pads will just give companies more money to advertise directly to the consumer. Why waste time with the doctor when you can sponsor a NASCAR team or put a big glossy ad in Ladies Home Journal?

  16. Limiting pens and pads will just give companies more money to advertise directly to the consumer. Why waste time with the doctor when you can sponsor a NASCAR team or put a big glossy ad in Ladies Home Journal?

  17. Well said, Dr. Rob. Rock on.
    How shockingly crass of Congress to criticize anyone for the appearance of impropriety. Of course, you all realize that this won’t end with the end of free pens, right? Now that they’ve won this small battle, I suspect they won’t stop until we’re practicing with leeches and trephination drills…generic leeches, of course. I assumed that was understood.

  18. Well said, Dr. Rob. Rock on.
    How shockingly crass of Congress to criticize anyone for the appearance of impropriety. Of course, you all realize that this won’t end with the end of free pens, right? Now that they’ve won this small battle, I suspect they won’t stop until we’re practicing with leeches and trephination drills…generic leeches, of course. I assumed that was understood.

  19. mottsapplesauce

    So, are the insurance companies going to follow suit?. I mean, don’t their lobbyists try to influence our government to keep them out of the way? Pens & paper may not be their schtick, but don’t they contribute big money for their ’cause’?

  20. mottsapplesauce

    So, are the insurance companies going to follow suit?. I mean, don’t their lobbyists try to influence our government to keep them out of the way? Pens & paper may not be their schtick, but don’t they contribute big money for their ’cause’?

  21. It was a sad day for Rob when he learned he wouldn’t be able to see how many pens he could swipe each time he took me to the doc.As a matter of fact he is pushing me to go everyday so he can build up a year supply

  22. It was a sad day for Rob when he learned he wouldn’t be able to see how many pens he could swipe each time he took me to the doc.As a matter of fact he is pushing me to go everyday so he can build up a year supply

  23. Alternatively, why don’t we deport the entire advertising and marketting “industries” to Rockall? 😉

  24. Alternatively, why don’t we deport the entire advertising and marketting “industries” to Rockall? 😉

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