A while ago, us critics of the medicine-Pharma interactions thought that we might prevail if we could only convince physicians that their cozy interactions with drug reps were not as "back room" as they thought but actually were occurring in a fishbowl--that patients and medical students, for instance, were seeing all this happen and not liking what they saw.
Maybe it worked.
The AP reports that the industry is now intent on scaling back its face-to-face rep action in favor of selling over the Internet:
There are a number of factors at work--the drug rep arms race that admittedly, to most industry insiders, flooded the market with too many reps; the rising costs of marketing coupled with fears of lower profits as blockbusters go off-patent; and the times, with many of us staying away from the mall so that we can shop on Amazon and eBay.
The article from AP states that docs in many cases refuse to see reps at the office, but are willing to spend 10 minutes talking with a rep by phone as the rep directs the doc to an Internet site with glitzy video presentations about new drugs. The article is silent on the gift angle. Most home computers, last I heard, are not set up to dispense gourmet dinners, or even pens and mugs; so the doc cannot get rewarded as per the old-fashioned rep visit. I believe that e-mail or mail vouchers for various benes have been used in connection with Internet marketing, but this particular story provides no details, and I'd like to hear more from others in the know.
Is this a good or bad development? If, by chance, the gift element has been removed (which I doubt), then maybe things are better. But we still have docs using commercially biased sources of information instead of doing some independent thinking and searching for more reliable data, which cannot be good for patients.