A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

“Confessions of a Former Drug Rep”

“Confessions of a Former Drug Rep”

March 26, 2008

Shahram Ahari, former Eli Lilly drug “detailer,” shared the tricks of the trade on NECN this week (two parts):

Shahram, who now travels the country testifying to legislatures considering measures to regulate pharmaceutical marketing and speaking to doctors and medical students, provided an insider view to the manipulative tactics that drug companies use to sell their products.

According to Ahari, drug reps are hired based on good looks and congeniality – no science background required. They are then encouraged to exploit sexual tension and to ply docs with gifts to foster a friendship and sense of reciprocity. Dr. Dale Magee, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, echoed Ahari’s concerns over the industry’s sales practices – and gift-giving in particular:

Recognizing the cost and quality implications of these practices, Senate President Murray has taken these concerns head-on. Her cost control legislation, released this month, would prohibit pharmaceutical companies from giving gifts to doctors and would create an educational outreach program to provide doctors with an unbiased source of information about drugs. The Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition strongly supports this legislation.

In related news, a University of Chicago study found that consumers who get free drug samples actually face higher drug costs. On the heels of another study that found that samples rarely go to the uninsured and low-income, this once again raises the question of whether samples are charity or just another marketing ploy. What do you think?
Lisa Kaplan Howe