Pharmaceutical sales reps are trained in tactics that are on par with
some of the most potent brainwashing techniques used throughout the
world, according to an in-depth report, co-written by former Eli Lilly drug rep Shahram Ahari; and Adriane Fugh-Berman, associate professor of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C..
Pharmaceutical companies spend more than $15 billion each year promoting prescription drugs in the United States.
These campaigns are designed to effectively alter prescribing behavior, in order to sell more of the high-profit drugs (as opposed to the most effective, and least dangerous.)
PLoS Medicine 4(4): e150, April 24, 2007 (Free Full Length Report)
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
The fact that sales reps for drug companies serve no useful function other than driving up sales for their blockbuster drugs—at your expense—is no surprise. What may shock you though is just how insidious their sales tactics really are.
In the end, you are the one paying the price twice, by emptying out your wallet, and endangering your health with drugs you probably don’t—and never did—need in the first place.
Drug reps are not your run-of-the-mill salesmen. They are indeed sharks, meticulously trained to spot the “in’s” and weaknesses of every client. Doctors usually believe they are immune to persuasion tactics, and drug reps know just how important it is to maintain that illusion.
In the year 2000, pharmaceutical companies spent 4.8 BILLION dollars on “detailing”—a fancy word for bribing individual doctors. And industry claims it’s worth every penny, which only proves that drug reps most definitely increase drug sales, by influencing physicians to change their prescription habits.
But exactly how do they do it? What makes otherwise well educated, smart doctors turn their backs on their Hippocratic Oath (to do no harm) and do the complete opposite (prescribe completely unnecessary drugs)?
Turns out, doc’s out there are mostly unaware of just howextensive and detailed the drug companies’ profiling of them is. Not only are reps trained to assess their personality, practice style, and medical preferences, they’re also instructed to sniff out personal information, like the names of family members, birthdays and family interests; as well as the physician’s professional interests and recreational pursuits.
All of this information goes into a database for future reference. When the time comes to devise an “incentive”—say a dinner, game or a membership—it is custom tailored to suit the prey. It’s all about establishing personal rapport. Oftentimes doctors mistake the reps’ cleverly disguised interest in them as personal friendship. This is exactly how it’s designed to work!
Physicians are clinically dissected into “types” based on their personality, and encounters are specifically tailored for maximum effect.
- “Friendly” doctors get the buddy treatment. Samples and gifts are given, not because it’s part of the job, but because the rep “likes” them. Lunch may be brought in under the guise that the doctor actually provides “pleasant relief from all other doc’s out there.”
- Aloof and skeptical doctors receive journal articles and extensive data that counter the documented apprehensions he may have…
- “Mercenary” physicians (who generally don’t prescribe as many drugs) receive a clear message that the dinner they just accepted implies their willingness to prescribe a particular drug to a certain number of patients exhibiting certain symptoms. Reneging on the prescriptions-for-dinner bargain gets broadcast over the jungle drums, and suddenly reps don’t come-a-knocking with goodies anymore…
- High-prescribers receive better presents, including unrestricted “educational” grants that essentially amount to cold-hard cash.
- Competing-drug prescribers are deftly manipulated into understanding how the drug will work better than the competitor’s for a certain patient niche (in order to circumvent their reluctance to switch).
- Acquiescent doc’s, who foolishly imagine that simply agreeing will get rid of the nuisance, realize all too late that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Gifts here are subtly used to enhance subconscious guilt and social pressure to reciprocate. Sales numbers shows it works like a charm.
- The hard-to-see physicians are actually not dissed by drug reps, because they’ve found that a good hand-delivered lunch to the office staff, followed by snooping under the guise of a friendly chitchat can work even better than talking to the doctor to find the right hot buttons.
- A certain class of doctors—charismatic, highly credentialed with an aura of integrity—is chosen as “thought leaders” to enhance and further certain drugs. These leaders are invited, and paid, as speakers to influence their peers. Depending on their level of allegiance and tact, they may be elevated through the ranks of speakers to the national circuit and beyond, gaining personal clout and fatter wallets as they go along with the program.
In recent years, physicians have become increasingly aware of—and dismayed by—the additional practice of script tracking. Health information organizations, like IMS Health, Dendrite, Verispan, and Wolters Kluwer, buy pharmacy prescription records and resell them. Drug companies keep tabs on the return on their bribes with this data, as it tells them the prescription rate of each doctor.
Patient names are not included in these records, but physicians are easily identified through either state license number, DEA number, or a pharmacy-specific identifier, through the American Medical Association’s master database. Physicians are then ranked on a one-to-ten scale, based on how many prescriptions they write, with a “10” ranking doctor being every reps dream date.
This information also reveals how many of a doctor’s patients receive specific drugs, how many competing drugs are prescribed compared with the target drug, and how the physicians prescribing habits change over time. It tells them if a drug is “in favor” or not, and gives them the tools to cook up a winning strategy for future manipulations.
Between 1990 and 2004, spending for prescription drugs increased five times, to a whopping $188.5 billion, and drug reps increased from 38,000 to 100,000 strong. That’s a ratio of one drug rep for every 2.5 physicians targeted for “detailing.” Talk about having a personal “Big Brother.”
The idea that reps provide some kind of valuable, informative service to physicians is total fiction, created and perpetuated by the drug industry, to keep this deadly, but profitable, scheme going.