When Pharma Reps Lie to Physicians

April 1, 2013

As a physician, I cannot condone pharmaceutical reps bad-mouthing each other - or flat-out lying - for the sake of a few prescriptions.

How far do you let a pharmaceutical rep go when they talk about their competitors? I know there are many physicians who do not entertain reps at all. I still let them come in to do their job. That usually entails them making an appointment to speak to me during lunch, with the accompanying lunch for me and my staff. That gives me a little time to sit and eat and chat, not just with the rep, but with my associate, who despite the small quarters in which we work, I may not see for hours at a time when we are busy.

During lunch, the reps will update me on any new indications for their drugs, and new studies and such. They inform me of the formulary status and they give me coupons for the patients and patient education materials.

It is generally a pleasant experience and I usually enjoy their visits, but there are the occasional reps that are too pushy.

Even worse, and what I find reprehensible, is when they say things about their rival that is untrue or unfounded. Case in point, one company had a recent recall. I was having lunch with a competitor’s rep and he asks, "Has the rep for Company B been around recently?" I couldn’t remember. "Well, you know they had a recall." Ah, yes, I knew about that, and I knew why there was a recall. "A patient died because of that." What?!?

No, I knew for a fact that it was a voluntary recall, that there had been no reports of patients being harmed, and that there was a manufacturing problem. "Well, I just heard that at another office. There’s an article on it," said the rep.  While he fumbled with his smartphone to find this article, I carried on another conversation with my associate. He finally gave up looking for it…because it doesn’t exist (I know, because just to be sure, I searched for it myself).

Now, I don’t know how many other people he said this to, or how many would have bothered to find out the truth, so I am really perturbed by it. So much so, that I have e-mailed the FDA. Now, will it get lost in the shuffle? Maybe. But I felt it was my duty to report the incident. I am also going to make sure that Company B’s rep is aware of these shenanigans so that she can do some damage control.

I know it’s a dog eat dog world out there, and reps are being laid off all the time and that their jobs depend on sales, but I cannot condone them bad-mouthing each other for the sake of a few prescriptions.