Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Listening to the Wrong Docs? Maybe So

The text for this sermon is a blog posting on the website:’s-doc

This firm recently sponsored a conference for drug reps and their handlers, Sales Force Effectiveness USA 2009 (see previous posting, Not having $2295 for the registration fee burning a hole in my pocket at the time, I elected not to register for the conference, so I'm glad that Lisa Roner has posted about a panel discussion among practicing physicians that occurred there.

Ms. Roner tells us that these 5 physicians on the panel had a point of view quite different from what most of us have been reading about lately, and from the pontifications of various medical organizations. These docs are thrilled to spend time visiting with reps. They highly value the information and materials that reps provide for them. They appreciate shortcuts given how busy they are, but getting rid of reps or diminishing Pharma influence over their practice is the last thing on their to-do list.

Roner suggests:

When asked why their attitudes toward reps and their usefulness seemed to differ from so much from what we hear from professional medical associations today, one participant explained that most of the boards that state positions on such matters are populated by academic MDs, whose perspectives and available time for researching new information on prescription drugs is different than that of practicing clinicians.
It was interesting to hear that the organizations that claim to speak for physicians perhaps don’t really represent the views of those truly serving patients....
In short, although they had some suggestions for improvement, this was not a group that appeared to want to distance itself from pharma or its reps. In fact, it was quite the opposite . These doctors saw value in what pharma and its reps have to offer. Funny that’s not what we hear in the media or from the political lobby. Have we been listening to the wrong “doctors?”

So-- just where did this much more representative group of doctors, who "truly" serve their patients (while academic physicians, apparently, only pretend to) come from? The post does not say exactly how they were chosen, except to say that the panel was moderated by Hank Parish, VP of Doctor Directory. Just what exactly is Doctor Directory? Business Week e-trade tells us:, Inc. operates as an online directory for finding a doctor by specialty. Its solutions include IncreaseRx, market research, eSampling, consumer email, physician email, eDetailing, custom directory, and advertising. The company also provides patients from online directory, cash for online research projects, online sample closet, and practice management advice to the physicians. It serves pharmaceutical prescription drug manufacturing companies, patients, and physicians.

I like that last part-- the company serves "pharmaceutical prescription drug manufacturing companies, patients, and physicians"--presumably in that order. So a group of 5 physicians selected by that outfit (presumably) is a more reliable sample of physician sentiment than what is said by major medical organizations?

Now, perhaps it does--perhaps the views of these 5 docs are truly more representative of the rank and file than anything I or the AMA or the AAMC says. That's why it's still important to recall a key fact about ethics--it's not a popularity contest. You don't get to say that something is ethical merely by putting it to a vote. Even if 90 percent of US physicians believe what these dudes said in their panel, it would not make it the ethically correct answer.

It would just make it a sad commentary on the state of American medicine.

(Thanks to Marilyn Mann for calling my attention to the blog!)

1 comment:

Dan said...

A very informative and insightful post.

Everytime I read that health care providers, prescribers, value pharmaceutical representatives, I end up laughing.

In the 10 years I was such a rep, the prescribers viewed us consistently as an interference, and far from a valuable asset to their own vocation.