Physicians don't have to want gifts to appreciate the role of drug reps

LETTER — Posted Feb. 13, 2006

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Regarding "Buy your own lunch" (Article, Jan. 16): The No Free Lunch group and their "Just Say No to Drug Reps" buttons are not only drug rep unfriendly, but person/patient unfriendly. I'd like to offer another perspective.

After 35 years in primary care practice, I must say that my patients and I have learned many things from drug reps and the starter-samples they leave.

Because each and every human being is "neurologically wired" differently, the nuances of "same class" drugs can be appreciated only by patients and their primary care physicians. Also, the effects of newer pharmaceuticals are not always the same as the effects of the old ones.

In a given patient, there are often subtle differences that make or break the drug's effectiveness, as well as the patient's sense of well-being. Thus, the use of samples "to get a patient started" is essential.

Because many people already perceive the medical profession as being too arrogant and egotistical, it might be more charitable, prudent and diplomatic to give up the "button" or change its wording.

Many drug reps are ex-military members who have served in combat zones; others are pilots, teachers, etc., who have had experiences that dwarf those of physicians.

With my patients as my priority, I say "no to gifts" but "yes to drug reps."

John M.R. Kuhn, MD, Schofield, Wis.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2006/02/13/edlt0213.htm.

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