The drug rep’s moral dilemma

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We stumbled across a kind of soap opera/game show called “Moral Dilemmas” on a site called and thought we’d share it, since it involves a pharma rep.

Basically, the idea is to tell a story that sets up a moral dilemma, and then let visitors to the site debate what the character should do in the situation described. Here’s an excerpt from the episode, “The Drummer and the Drug Rep”:

Kara landed a good job as a drug representative for a large pharmaceutical company … recently much of Kara’s job has involved educating doctors on a new anti-depressant her company has developed called Serotonix. The drug is very similar to existing medications like Prozac and Zoloft in that it is effective in treating depression and anxiety and it is not addictive … Of course, like most of the drugs it is similar to, Serotonix is expensive, costing up to $3 per 50mg pill.

The drug has begun to make a huge splash in the marketplace and nearly every doctor she visits asks questions about it and requests samples. The company she works for is more than happy to oblige and reps like Kara are always sent out with more than enough promotional packages of Serotonix to give out to physicians as they see fit.

On a recent January afternoon, Kara … saw a familiar face sitting in a booth in the smoking section and recognized that it was Robert, an old acquaintance whom she hadn’t seen since high school … He told her that he’d dropped out of college after two years to play drums for a Seattle band that seemed poised for big things. They had had some small success but failed to really take off. After the band had broken up two years ago, Robert moved back to their hometown. He had been trying to find another group to latch onto and was working at a Starbucks in the strip mall down the road to make ends meet…

Over the next two weeks she visited Robert three more times, but while she loved spending time with him it was also becoming clear to her that he had some real struggles in his life… The last time she saw him, Robert confided that he had struggled with depression for the past few years and had even tried to commit suicide a few times…

The next day Kara picked up the phone and heard Robert crying on the other end. He told her that he felt hopeless and didn’t believe his life would ever get better … After a few moments he gathered himself and asked “Do you think those samples you carry in your trunk would do me any good?”

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OK, pharma and medical bloggers: What’s the right thing for Kara to do?

Here are your voting options:

  1. Tell Robert that she could get fired for giving him samples of a prescription medication?
  2. Go be with him to make sure he doesn’t try to hurt himself?
  3. Offer to drive him to a nearby emergency room and try to get him some help?
  4. Cross professional boundaries and ask a doctor she calls on in her job to see Robert for free and perhaps prescribe some medication?
  5. Give Robert a few weeks worth of Serotonix samples and see how he reacts?

Current voting results show No. 1 with a big lead — followed by No. 5.

Of course, we might have recommended option 6: Go to the doctor and then fill your prescription online through to save money.

The most interesting thing about is that it’s actually a Catholic ministry for people in their 20s and 30s. Here’s the background.

About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs. - Search. Compare. Save.

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