When I saw the article by Ahari and Fugh-Berman in PLoS Medicine, in which the first author describes his fomer career as a drug rep (see my posts on the article dated April 26, 2007), I was pleased to see a general confirmation of what I had written, along with additional details as to the precise psychological profiling techniques that reps use to size up each physician and to select the sales approach that works best for each.
Now, Kevin O'Reilly, writing in American Medical News, has dug out (rather belatedly one would think) the Ahari-Fugh-Berman paper, and provides a summary of their report along with denials from a couple of former drug reps. (I am quoted at the end of the article as supporting Ahari's account.)
The former reps who took issue with Ahari's characterization (I should add that Ahari has an MPH and is now doing health services research at UCSF) are:
- Pam Marinko: "the very kind of thing that gives drug reps such a bad reputation"... Ahari "cherry-picked" certain sales practices and "served it all up in a negative light"..."It's absurd to suggest that a physician would make a prescribing decision based on whether he liked a drug rep."
- Sarah Taylor: "My experience wasn't anything like that"
Just what do these former reps do today? Marinko is CEO of Proficient Learning LLC, a drug rep training firm in Wilmington, NC. Taylor is author of The Secrets of Successful Pharmaceutical Salespeople. I will let you decide whether those people sound suficiently free of bias to commment fairly on Ahari's allegations.
(Incidentally, another former drug rep, now an academic, who paints a picture of the rep business in terms very similar to Ahari's is Michael Oldani, now a professor of anthropology--see HOOKED for references to his publications.)
Just a nice extra touch--Marinko is so convinced that detailing is the best way for docs to get the latest drug information, that she refuses to go to any physician who has a won't-see-drug-reps policy. I wish her well.
O'Reilly K. Professional issues: Drug rep creates stir with details on tricks of his trade. American Medical News, Sept. 3, 2007.