Are Drug Representatives Beneficial To A Doctor?
Drug representatives are sales people who work for pharmaceutical companies. They visit doctors and try to convince them to prescribe their drugs to patients. Drug representatives use tactics such as gifts to help boost the pharmaceutical company they work for. These representatives want doctors to prescribe their company’s drug to patients- they’ll do whatever it takes. Some doctors favor the resources a representative offers them, while others reject them at their door. Free samples for patients, and gifts for doctors may seem like a great deal, but that isn’t always the case. Drug representatives provide doctors with essential information about drugs, but visits with representatives can be detrimental to the time doctors could spend with patients. Both of these factors, and others, must be considered when evaluating the impact of a drug representative.
In Fisman's and Luca’s (2019) article “Did Free Pens Cause the Opioid Crisis,” opioid addiction is explained in correlation to free pens and gifts from pharmaceutical drug representatives- better known as ‘detailers.’ The article included many examples in which detailers would give gifts to doctors and converse over lunch. The detailers take time from a doctor’s day as they try to boost their company’s opioid brand, all in hopes that a doctor would prescribe it to patients. The 2019 article gave the impression that drug representatives are beneficial to doctors. However, Benjamin Brewer, an Illinois family medical specialist in “What Drug Rep Visits Cost you” by Robert Lowes (2007), proves that wrong. Brewer discovered that drug representatives are costing him not only his patient’s time, but money as well. He concluded that conversations over lunch with the representatives, which included gifts, were far more than a distraction (Lowes, 2007).
Lowes’s (2007) article, “What Drug Rep Visits Cost You,” challenges Fisman’s and Luca’s (2019) article “Did Free Pens Cause the Opioid Crisis.” What is mentioned by Fisman and Luca (2019) in their article is nearly opposite from what is said in Lowes's article. By taking two different experiences from two different sources, it was found that not all drug representatives are helpful to all doctors.
It is important to include that doctors do get paid enough, but they aren’t getting paid to visit with the drug representatives that take up their time. As stated in “Did Free Pens Cause the Opioid Crisis,” nearly half of American doctors receive a payment from a drug representative (Fisman and Luca, 2019). But, almost all kinds of payment from these representatives are in the form of a gift, not an actual payment that would increase a doctor’s revenue. Coffee mugs and sporting tickets are only temporary gifts that would benefit or make a doctor feel good for a short amount of time. Free gifts may flatter a doctor, but the drugs being advertised aren’t for them, they are for the patients. Like Brewer says in Lowes’s (2007) article, drug representatives who come with gifts are an annoyance to both the patient and the doctor (Lowes, 2007). If a doctor isn't satisfied by the information given from the representative, it appears as if the representative uses a gift or kind act as a last chance persuasive technique to win the doctor over, and get them to prescribe their drug.
Visits from drug representatives can ‘derail’ a doctor’s schedule (Lowes, 2007). Not knowing when a representative will show up to sell their company can make it hard for a doctor to see scheduled patients. Benjamin Brewer explained his experiences with drug representatives as time consuming and a loss of money (Lowes, 2007). When visiting with a doctor, drug representatives need to take all the distractions they could be causing, into consideration. The same thing goes for a doctor, they should be sure their patients are happy and healthy before putting them aside to get a spiel on a drug company. This could help a patient feel like more of a priority to a doctor.
Furthermore, drug representatives would take up the time Brewer had to work with his patients. Each patient would have to wait an additional ten minutes if Brewer was in a meeting with a representative (Lowes, 2007). Brewer says drug representative visits take nearly 60 minutes away from him each week, which cost him about $6,000 a year (Lowes, 2007). If drug representatives would make an appointment to visit with a doctor, the time taken from a doctor’s day wouldn't be such a drawback. After declining representative visits, Brewer realized he was making more money. He was able to treat more patients and make money from their visits. Although Brewer ended the drug representative meetups, he still accepted samples. Brewer desires extra money in his pocket. Representatives were not beneficial to Brewer, nor did they help his patients.
Nevertheless, other doctors mentioned in the article favor drug representatives. One pediatrician says they are resourceful, and the samples that are given are helpful for patients who can't afford the prescription (Lowes, 2007). Others like Katrina Hood, says she appreciates drug representatives due to education on product information (Lowes, 2007). Drug representatives can be a great source of information when it comes to certain drugs.
Unknown information about a drug a representative is selling, is helpful to a doctor, but the time they take out of a doctor’s day is not necessarily worth it. If doctors looked at the toll drug representatives took on their schedule, like Brewer did, they would be surprised by the time and money they lost in the long run.
After Brewer’s experience with drug representatives, he made a change. Stopping drug representative visits completely helped him make time for his patients, and a little extra money. Taking time away from a patient is not ideal. However, it is not necessary for all doctors to put a stop to drug representative visits. Those that find the visits helpful should continue to meet with a representative. However, those who have time consuming experiences with representatives, but enjoy the samples, should adjust their schedule. A doctor should put time aside for patient appointments first, then meet with a representative when they have free time- once or twice a month, whatever is convenient. This way, drug representatives can share their pharmaceutical drug brand (without a distraction) to a doctor who made time for them.
Representatives are best known for their free samples and gifts- not everyone sees all their tactics as deceiving. Drug representatives can be a convenience to a doctor if patient time and revenue aren't affected. Despite the good image they can create for their pharmaceutical brand, drug representatives aren’t much of an advantage to a doctor. When more time is focused on patients, rather than a time consuming sales pitch from a representative, both the patient and the doctor benefit. Doctors who turn down sales representatives give their patients the time they need and continue to make the money they work for.