Travel and samples influence docs

April 1, 2000

Pharmaceutical Representative

Physician prescribing habits can be influenced by samples, continuing medical education sponsorships and conference travel funding, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (vol. 283, no. 3).

Physician prescribing habits can be influenced by samples, continuing medical education sponsorships and conference travel funding, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (vol. 283, no. 3).

The JAMA report, titled "Physicians and the Pharmaceutical Industry: Is a Gift Ever Just a Gift?" analyzed 29 studies found through an article search. Of the articles, 16 addressed the extent of the physician-industry interaction.

According to the study, between 42% and 55% of physicians found samples to be influential as compared to only 22% who said company promotional materials were influential. Only 24% found industry-paid meals to be influential and 12% said lunch rounds and pharmaceutical representative speakers influenced them to prescribe certain medications.

Besides samples, doctors found conference travel (42%) and continuing medical education funding (40%) to be the most influential on their prescribing habits.

The authors cite estimates that the pharmaceutical industry spends more than $11 billion a year in promotion and marketing, $5 billion of which goes to sales representatives. The article also claims that, "It has been estimated that between $8,000 and $13,000 is spent per year on each physician."

An editorial written by Robert M. Tenery, Jr, M.D. in the same issue of the journal concedes that "representatives from the healthcare industry can be a valuable resource for physicians." But, the editorial cautioned that doctors should be wary pharmaceutical representatives' ways. "Physicians should not take as absolute everything they are told by industry representatives," Tenery warned, "and should become cognizant of the potential conflicts created by the increasing level of sophistication in the detailing techniques used by these individuals."

Tenery concluded by saying, "The medical profession and industry must take seriously their obligation to participate in a dialogue that would develop industry-wide standards for the interactions between physicians and healthcare technology industry company representatives." PR