More About the Cynical World of Drug Reps

We have posted several times about the inside view of the marketing tactics used by pharmaceutical representatives to get physicians to prescribe more drugs provided by former Eli Lilly drup rep Shahram Ahari. Our post about an article he co-wrote with Adriane Fugh-Berman is here. Our post about a recent talk he gave in Boston is here. Ahari has recently testified before the US Congress, and gone on the lecture circuit, providing a new set of juicy quotes to illustrate his main points about the cynical world of at least some drug reps.
  • Drug Marketing is Not Education - "The idea that the drug rep is an effective vehicle for disseminating objective science is pure fiction."(1)
  • Drug Reps Buy Friendship with Gifts, Et Cetera - Drug reps use "a vast arsenal of gifts, including pens, pads, clipboards, food and drug samples."(1) The job involves "rewarding physicians with gifts and attention for their allegiance to your product and company despite what may be ethically appropriate."(2) Also, "the nature of this business is gift-giving."(2) Ahari's gift budget for meals was $60,000 a year, and that apparently could be exceeded. Regarding the et cetera, "we were the beautiful people." The people he worked with " were all beautiful, vivacious and fun," and included former models and cheerleaders.(3) In an interview available as a video on the Prescription Project blog, Ahari alleged that the drug reps used "sexual tension" to promote their marketing pitch. (That video includes quotes even more to the point than the ones above, so is worth watching directly.)
  • Physicians are Not Immune - "Physicians can be influenced like everyone else."(3)

Physicians must remember that the indiscriminate use of the latest and most expensive drugs may not necessarily be good for their patients, and putting the patients' interests first is our prime directive. Yes, many drug reps are nice people and are well-meaning, or at least have convinced themselves that that their intentions are good. But we need to be much more skeptical about their pitches, and remember that their goal is to sell drugs, not to educate or be our friends.

1. Hoffer A. An offset to drug industry's sales pitch. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, March 12, 2008. Link here.
2. Baram M. Ex-drug sales rep tells all. ABC News. March 14, 2008. Link here.
3. McConville C. Ex-drug salesman: we lured docs with gifts. Boston Herald, March 30, 2008. Link here.