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Drug companies’ smartest and most flexible tool!
  1. K Walsh
  1. BMJ Learning, BMJ Publishing Group, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JR, UH; kmwalshbmjgroup.com

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    My pen is from Pfizer and my post-it notes from Astra Zeneca and each time I use them I try to convince myself that they don’t influence my prescribing decisions. Sadly I am only fooling myself. The messages from the drug companies must get through—otherwise they wouldn’t use these tools. But of course the main tool that they are using is me.

    The pens and post-it notes have got smaller and less useful over the years and drug companies may eventually get rid of them altogether. I wonder will they do the same to their smartest and most flexible tool—the doctor who takes their gifts. Roy Lilley writing for Pharmaceutical Marketing says that drug companies should “try linking treatment and drugs with therapy delivery and sell a new service. Put the people with the pill and learn about adding value to the medicine.” (http://www.pmlive.com/pharm_market/opinion.cfm?showArticle=1&ArticleID=3074)

    What could he mean by this? Does he mean bypassing the independent prescriber altogether and getting drug companies to run asthma clinics and allow their employees to prescribe inhalers? This idea may not be as outlandish as you think. Drug companies have long employed people to explain to patients how to take certain injections—expensive ones like interferon, that is. But increasingly we may see employees of drug companies prescribing medications too.

    In the past they gave you the pen and the paper and the folder: are we just a small step away from them doing the prescribing for you as well? It could happen unless pretty soon someone shouts STOP.

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