December 21st, 2010

Say Hello to Your New Drug Rep?

Most of the doctors I know have, at one time or another, responded to a web-based “survey”. While I have tried not to make a second career out of it, I will admit that I have on occasion done a survey in between patients, at lunch, or at the end of the day.  They usually take 5 to 40 minutes and ask for your opinion on the desirability of a potential new medication or about the frequency of your interaction with a particular pharmaceutical sales force.  The incentive is usually cash, anywhere from $15 to $100, depending on the time required.

Recently though, I participated in a survey on anti-platelet therapies that seemed different.  I indicated at the beginning of the survey that I had little experience with drug X.  The first part of the “survey” consisted of advertisements and studies in support of this drug (which is already on the market).  The question section asked me to rate the ads based on clarity and believability. At the end of the program, I was asked if viewing these ads would make me more likely to use drug X.

I have to admit that I felt somewhat tricked. This “survey” seemed more like a forme fruste of e-detailing.  Is it a coincidence that most of the major pharmaceutical companies have recently undergone massive layoffs of their sales staff?

The idea of being paid for my opinion on the applicability or name of an investigational drug seems innocuous enough.  But being compensated to view a unilateral promotional pitch for an established drug that I am in a position to prescribe seemed to cross a line.  And while it felt strange to me, is it really any different than listening to a drug rep over a free lunch?

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