Yes to drug rep visits; no to junk mail

LETTER — Posted April 4, 2005

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Regarding "Iowa practice draws notice for its 'no-gift' policy" (Article, Feb. 14): I, for one, gain a lot of information from the drug representatives, particularly when it comes to new products or devices for surgeries. Of course, I do not develop my prescribing guidelines solely by what they say, but I certainly investigate new surgical devices and new surgical techniques based on their input.

Many times, I have been privileged to see newer devices and techniques before large-scale introduction in the United States. I don't consider this a waste of my time, and it definitely enhanced my ability to deliver the latest in medical technology to my patients.

Let me point out to the physician whose practice is cited in the article that he just needs to check his mail to see some of the dollars being spent by the pharmaceutical companies. I am appalled almost daily to find trinkets and little cardboard pop-up messages jumping out of envelopes on my desk when I open my mail from pharmaceutical companies. I am not sure how much money the pharmaceutical industry is wasting on clever ad campaigns and little cardboard boxes with rubber bands to get my attention, but to me that practice should stop.

The pharmaceutical industry should regulate itself regarding these frivolous ad campaigns that cost millions of dollars a year, probably much more than physician office visits and pens and pads. Most of these items head straight for the garbage can.

I am reminded of one such campaign in which a pharmaceutical company had a small cardboard pop-up microscope that came alive when taken out of the envelope. I noticed that there was some complex engineering involved that required small cardboard hooks and rubber bands to allow it to make its microscope shape. This was all for some cream to support bacterial vaginosis. The next time a representative came by my office, I gave him this advertising ploy and told him I ever received another one of these I would never prescribe his medicine again.

I agree that the sports event tickets and other "cash only" incentives are not ethical, but I vehemently disagree that the drug rep visits and drug rep lunches are a waste of physicians' time. My suggestion is instead of refusing to see drug reps, call or write their corporate offices, refusing to get their junk mail.

B. Edward O'Dell, MD, Florence, S.C.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/04/04/edlt0404.htm.

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