Friday, September 12, 2008

Nationwide Pen Shortage Imminent

As any doctor or pharmacist knows, drug reps are a great source for office supplies. I have to question how much information about their products that they disseminate, and I've mentioned in the past that occasionally reps get way, way too enthusiastic about pushing products that are honestly mediocre attempts to extend the patent life on drugs no one is using anyway. I suppose that's their job, so I can't fault them for it...too much.

But there won't be any more free stuff for listening to their sales pitches.

Starting in January, drug detailers will have a lighter load to carry when they visit physician offices. That is when new industry guidelines take effect that bar them from leaving behind drugmaker-branded pens, notepads, coffee mugs and other reminder items.

Here's the interesting bit--this is voluntary. The major drug company association, PhRMA, is adopting these new standards in hopes that they'll avoid legislation actually banning the practice. In essence, they're surendering before the battle even begins because they know that the legislature will not be kind to their pen-pushing ilk. Various bills are already in circulation, so it's probably just a matter of time; voluntary actions on the part of Pharma are unlikely to impress legislators at this rate.

Educational items are still okay, as long as the total value is less than $100. So reps can still hand out literature, books, subscriptions, patient education materials, whatever. Just no more pens and pads. I'm not sure what we're going to write on at my pharmacy now. We have a stockpile of post-its from various pharmaceutical companies, but the supply will eventually run dry. I guess we'll have to settle for store-using real post-it pads.

I think that the best part of this whole story is a statistic cited by Pharmacist's Letter. Only 16% of physicians think that drug rep gifts influence their prescribing. But 61% of physicians think that other doctors are influenced by rep gifts. Hah!

1 comment:

PharmacistMike said...

I have no idea what to do now. In a recent hospital position I was in charge of a $1.2 million a month budget, which I always hit. However, my bonus was based on not going 6% over the previous years amount of office supplies (which was $90).

I'd never get a bonus without the free pens and pads.