The Massachusetts legislature wants to entirely ban any gifts from pharmaceutical companies to doctors. This includes pens, coffee cups, note pads as well as dinners, lunches and so on. This is not exactly about business cards but it does relate to person-to-person selling.

I think we all agree that pharmaceuticals are expensive in fact too expensive for most Americans, however I think in the interest of helping to cut waste the MA legislators are going after an easy target to give the appearence of taking action.

Do you think the average doctor is going to push a drug on a patient simply because the drug rep gave him a coffee mug and bought lunch? I seriously doubt it. What is the use of a coffee mug or any other promotional product? It is to REMIND the potential user of the product. It is not a bribe. It is an advertising meduim, similar to a billboard, magazine ad or television ad.

Doctors are people. They need to be informed and reminded like any other person. In general the influence of salespeople is  given too much credit (sorry). Salespeople are not Svengali’s able to make unsuspecting buyers go out in the word and do their bidding. Today a good salesperson is an educator. In this case, it is the job of the pharmaceutical rep to educate the physician about the product ( admittedly from her company’s point-of-view) and to remind the medical practitioner to consider that product when it is appropriate.

It is general business practice to present your product in the best environment, to give it the best “spin” and to leave a reminder of your visit, be it a brochure or other useful information to help the buyer make a decision. If you can leave a “billboard” in the form of a notepad, coffee mug or business card magnet, so much the better. These items, in the short run, might remind the buyer to take action, but they are unlikely to substantially influence a buying decision. It is the job of the buyer to be as informed as possible about all products that might serve the intended purpose and make the choice he or she feels is best.

Years ago this system was abused with trips to exotic locations and vacations for doctors and their families, but this has been done away with.  Bribery should not be allowed, but let’s get real. Let’s give the doctors some credit. I hope no doctor I know will push an expensive or useless drug on a patient for want of yet another notepad,  pen or even a good steak dinner.

Let’s encourage our lawmakers to protect us from abusive influences but “Don’t Shoot the Messenger.”

Check out these articles to learn more.

Boston Globe Article

NY Time Article

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

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