The pharmaceutical industry spends billions of dollars each year on handing out free samples of their expensive brand name drugs to physicians, who in turn hand them out to their patients. As I’ve written about here and here, the obvious marketing truth is that no company would be doing this unless the strategy resulted in a significant increase in sales of those drugs. When you’re looking at a global market for pharmaceuticals expected to top $1.1 trillion by 2014, that’s a substantial incentive to keep up this practice. Still, very few physicians believe that doctors accepting billions of dollars in free drug samples annually has the slightest bit of influence on the way they practice medicine. Except, of course, when it’s those other docs out there who are accepting the freebies. Continue reading
Do you know why product demonstrators at the grocery store give you those tempting little free food samples when you’re out shopping on your way home for dinner? It’s because manufacturers and retailers know that free samples result in significantly increased sales. They simply wouldn’t be doing this if it didn’t work to boost results. The food business is not doing charity work – their goal is to make more money. This free sample strategy is based on a sociological concept called “the rule of reciprocation“.
It’s also the same concept that pharmaceutical companies rely on when they offer your doctors financial incentives – and even those free drug samples. Continue reading
You may not expect to find an ivory tower academic whose erudite specialty is philosophy hanging out at drug marketing conferences, but that’s where you would have found Dr. Sergio Sismondo a few years ago. The professor of philosophy at my old stomping ground, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, turned up at the annual meeting of the International Society of Medical Planning Professionals, one of two large organizations representing medical communications firms.
A medical communications firm is a business that sells services to pharmaceutical and other companies for “managing” the publication and placement of scientific research papers for maximal marketing impact, often running a full publicity campaign to help sell the drug being “studied”. This is an alarmingly widespread practice in which drug companies essentially decide what your physician will end up reading in medical journals. Continue reading
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit news agency that produces investigative journalism in the public interest – and this year, it became the first online newsroom to win the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. When they start digging, they find something interesting. Lately, ProPublica has been investigating Big Pharma marketing, particularly the growing practice of recruiting, training and paying doctors to give presentations to other docs about specific drugs.
They’re part of the pharmaceutical industry’s white-coat sales force, doctors paid to promote brand name prescription drugs to their peers — and if they’re convincing enough, to get more physicians to prescribe them. Continue reading