Have you ever gone to your doctor’s office and seen men or women impeccably dressed in suits carrying briefcases or what looks like a small carrying case? The majority of the time, they are the sales reps from the pharmaceutical companies pitching the latest drugs to the doctor. Consider them the walking cliff notes of pharmaceuticals. Their job is to help doctors make informed decisions about the drug choices available to treat patients. And I am selling theGolden GateBridgefor $50,000. If you are interested send a cashier’s check or money order please.
Pharmaceutical Sales Reps
Pharmaceutical sales reps do serve a function in the world of drugs. They are the short cut for doctors to help picking medication but are biased towards their paychecks. Doctors are human too and they need time off to relax and enjoy their lives. Now, this wouldn’t be possible if they had to sit down every night and read all the literature and studies about every new drug coming to market. There are just not enough hours in the day but doctors still need to stay up to date on the latest medical drugs. Enter the sales reps.
Sales reps are trained to give doctors the most important information from their company such as prescribing habits, side effects, other possible treatments (off label use) and insurance coverage. In addition, they are also the source of free samples for patients to try. This is the point where patients become guinea pigs so to speak. All the FDA studies are nice to determine every possible outcome but those studies are only a small sample size of society. In the end, every person reacts differently to any given drug. If new drugs come to market, a doctor will give samples to patients to see their reactions before issuing a full prescription. Hence, the guinea pig anecdote.
I had interviewed for sales jobs and learned some of the tricks of the trade. Not every drug is prescribed by doctors. All humans play favorites and doctors are human. Doctors will have their favorite pharmaceutical companies mostly because their drugs are effective and treat the symptoms but also because of the relationship they built with the sales rep. This is considered good for everyone since the patient will be healed and in turn believe that the doctor is a good at his job.
Drug Marketing to Doctors
When a new drug comes to market that competes against one that is prescribed regularly by doctors, the sales reps are sent out in droves to try and change the prescription habits. Based on their relationship with the doctors will determine if the new drug is prescribed. This is where it gets interesting. Let’s say that the new drug is causing more stomach pains than normal and patients start complaining. The doctor will go back to the older medications and stop prescribing the new one. The next time the sales rep comes in; doctors will have a discussion about side effects with sales reps and report back to the pharmaceutical company.
As you can see, before you even step into the doctor’s office, prescriptions drugs are already predetermined for all patients based on relationships and patient feedback. Where one doctor prescribes Zocor, another will prescribe Lipitor for the same patient and monitor the side effects. Doctors are busy and have a lot of patients to treat, so giving us a choice between 10 drugs adds to wasted time. Narrowing those drugs to one or two will speed the process. What about the other 8? They don’t vanish; they just don’t get prescribed by as many doctors. So if you are concerned about what drug is right for you, just let the doctor chose. Or you can ask one simple question: What are my choices (options)? From there have a conversation about your choice of medication. Have you asked your doctor about other choices or have you just taken the prescription that was given?