My Love-Hate Relationship With Drug Reps

November 22, 2010

I could never be a pharmaceutical rep. First of all, I would probably weigh 300 pounds with all the lunches and dinner programs.

I could never be a pharmaceutical rep. First of all, I would probably weigh 300 pounds with all the lunches and dinner programs. Secondly, I don’t think I could put up with the disdain and abuse they get from some offices. I, myself, find I am in a love-hate relationship with them. Some more hate than others.

I know they are trying to do their job. And in today’s economy and with the state of the pharmaceutical industry lately, every rep I know is just holding on to dear life.

There are some offices that refuse to see reps. I can understand the reasons why. There’s the concern about the perception that drug reps can unduly influence a physician’s prescribing habits. After all, that is the rep’s objective, isn’t it? Listening to their spiel can also be time-consuming. And unless, there is new information, it can get pretty tedious. I mean, really, how many times can you hear the same thing about a drug that’s been around for five years? It can also be a lot of pressure on a doc who wants to be diplomatic. What do you say when the rep asks you how you feel about his drug when in reality you almost always use the competitor’s drug?

On the other hand, I find reps to be an invaluable source of patient education materials and patient support. Diet guides, blood glucose diaries, cook books, all for free and readily available. Sure, I could order or even download some of these things for free. But that’s time- and toner-consuming. And samples aren’t only free, they’re priceless. If I’m going to start someone on a new med, I’d like to give them a few to start with to make sure they tolerate it before they fill a 90-day scrip. And if they are going to mail away for the drug, I want to be able to give them something to get them started while they wait for their shipment. And, at this time of year, when many Medicare patients fall into the doughnut hole, samples can get them through rough times.

I also limit drop-in visits to sample drop-offs. You want to have an in-depth conversation, let’s do it over lunch. It saves me the time to go hunt down food on my own, and it is a perk my staff enjoys. It makes them more productive. They don’t have to rush out and find lunch, and they don’t have to brown bag it. And over the years, I have found that many reps make for very pleasant conversation, once they get their spiel out of the way. My husband once asked if I should limit my drug rep lunches so I have time to relax. I told him that is my relaxing time. Having lunch, shooting the breeze.

As far as them influencing my prescribing habits. I’d like to think I am still a critical thinker. I will still use metformin as first line unless there is a contraindication. I’ll prescribe other generics if appropriate. Do I use the latest and greatest? Sure, if I think it’s the right drug for the right patient.

So my office is open to drug rep visits. I will tolerate the bad to get what’s good.