To deal with the current onslaught of criticism against the industry in the United States, it is time to think about proactive
steps to mitigate criticism and convince outsiders and providers that there is real value in the information exchange between
clinicians and representatives. Industry leaders need to work with those in education and medicine—and also with critics—to
quickly develop a voluntary educational standard. This will ensure that industry sales representatives who call on physicians
to communicate information about their companies' products are ethical, well educated, and knowledgeable—exactly what our
research shows physicians want. The industry should be proactive and lead through voluntary self-regulation and education
rather than be legislated at the local, state, or federal level. A voluntary industry-wide learning standard would improve
physician and sales representative interactions and demonstrate the value that quality education can lend to quality healthcare.
With the increasing regulation of the industry, legislative requirements could quickly become a bureaucratic nightmare, creating
an environment in which each pharmaceutical company would need to make certain that its sales representatives adhere to the
myriad standards and guidelines in different states or even municipalities. How would these regulations advance patient care?
We're at a critical juncture in the way the pharma industry sells and markets its products. We must act now and with a very
real sense of urgency. We must find ways to demonstrate to the public and to providers the valuable role that the industry
and its R&D activities play in improving the health and longevity of our nation's citizens. By increasing education and setting
voluntary industry-wide standards, the industry can show its commitment to professionalism while ensuring that sales reps
go beyond marketing to enhance the quality of patient care.
James E. Dutton is president of the CMR Institute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org