What Drug Reps Really Care About

In the Carlat Psychiatry Blog, Dr Daniel Carlat summarized a talk on tactics used by drug representatives by former Eli Lilly rep Shahram Ahari . Some key quotes:
  • "Gift giving is the key. You are programmed as a human to reciprocate. You feel obliged to return the favor."
  • " Samples are a marketing tool. They always have strings attached. Typically, we would provide two weeks worth of samples, which worked out wonderfully. Just like a drug dealer, the first one is free, and then you’re hooked."
  • " We had a $60,000 budget for food, and we used this to make ourselves seem a necessity to clinics who wanted to make their staff happy."
  • "I was in your office in order to influence you to prescribe Prozac or Zyprexa. We focussed on providing information to manipulate your prescribing, not to teach you how to treat your patients. Mostly, we wanted to build a good relationship, so that you’d like us. We are the one spot of sunshine in your day, a person who steps in the door and is actually interested in how you’re doing. We’re fun, witty, attractive, and we come bearing gifts. No wonder we’re accepted into your offices."

Remember, the drup representative's job is to market drugs. He or she is not there to educate the physician. He or she may appear to a beleaguered physician to be the one person who actually cares, but what the drug rep really cares about is selling drugs. He or she is no more naturally the physician's friend than is a hospital administrator or a managed care functionary. Some drug reps are naturally nice people. Some may care about education. Some may really be friends with physician. But they are all trained to appear to be physicians' friends. Physicians uncritically accept this appearance as reality at their and their patients' peril.