Check out this well-written, first-person account in Slate, detailing the relationship between Big Pharma and physicians. Excerpt:
It’s a sleazy proposition all the way around. But as Calvin Coolidge once said, the business of America is business. Successful businesses want to sell as much as they can, as fast as they can. So doctors end up with meals and pens and trips and bogus advisory-board positions and, of course, the hordes of fine-looking well-perfumed young men and women (some literally cheerleaders) who hustle their way through physicians’ offices.
Despite its successes, the pharma business model does have a problem. The drug reps, foot soldiers in the mercantile crusade, don’t know what they are talking about. Unlike a shoe salesman or the guy who sold you your laptop, the drug rep is 100 percent lost. Imagine buying a car from someone who’s never had a driver’s license – that’s how the doctor-drug relationship plays out. None of the people trying to convince me to prescribe product A ever has prescribed product or product B or product C for that matter. None has ever experienced the elaborate mess that is routine patient care. The freebies seek to redress this imbalance by making the exchange seem worthwhile.
Interesting stat in the piece: Big Pharma spends $8,000 to $13,000 per doctor annually marketing its various products.28