The rule of seven touches

Dr. Atul Gwande tells the story in his New Yorker column of asking a pharmaceutical rep how he persuades “notoriously stubborn” doctors to adopt a new drug he’s promoting.  The rep’s response:

“Evidence is not remotely enough, however strong a case you may have. You must also apply the rule of seven touches.”

“Personally ‘touch’ the doctors seven times, and they will come to know you; if they know you, they might trust you; and, if they trust you, they will change.”

That’s why, explained Dr. Gwande, this drug rep stocked doctors’ closets with free drug samples in person.  Continue reading

Big Tobacco’s lessons for Big Food

In the good old days, the tobacco industry had a strategic marketing playbook script that worked something like this:

  • emphasize personal responsibility for choosing to smoke
  • pay scientists to deliver research that instills doubt about risks
  • criticize the “junk science” that finds harms associated with smoking
  • make self-regulatory pledges
  • lobby with massive resources to stifle government action
  • introduce “safer” products
  • simultaneously manipulate and deny both the addictive nature of tobacco products and marketing said products to children

The compelling question asked by researchers Drs. Kelly Brownell and Kenneth Warner is this: How does the script of the modern food industry compare to that tobacco industry script?  Continue reading

Handy hints for getting along with your drug company

Pity the poor pharmaceutical industry, much maligned by those concerned about marketing-based medicine. Ray Moynihan is one of the most vocal watchdogs of the industry.  He’s the Australia-based co-author with Alan Cassels of a compelling book called Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients.

His work on disease-mongering has intrigued me for years, and now he offers these handy hints for physicians on how to get along with your friendly neighbourhood drug or medical device company.  These hints are in response to a British guideline for physicians written by a multinational stakeholder group, including the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). Neither the group’s membership nor funding is declared in the guidelines or on the ABPI website.

Here’s Moynihan’s cheeky advice* in the British Medical Journal for doctors who are reading this guidance: Continue reading