New Guidelines Wipe Out Drug Company Freebies

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Doctors will no longer be bombarded with branded freebies from the pharmaceutical industry. The New York Times reports drug makers have voluntarily agreed to stop providing them with promotional items, such as pens, notepads, t-shirts and mugs, as of Jan. 1.

The drug companies have said the items given to doctors were meant to foster good will; but others say they were used to encourage doctors to prescribe more of the marketed drugs.

At the very least, the barrage of simple gifts kept drug logos and mascots visible to doctors and patients. In the past, logos of defective drugs that have since been recalled or pulled off the market have appeared on the free merchandise.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry group in Washington, wrote the new guidelines.

Not All Types of Giving Is Banned

Although drug makers are now banned from giving doctors branded items, they still may provide free lunches for doctors and their staffs or sponsor evening meals at restaurants as long as dinner includes some type of educational presentation.

Drug makers are also permitted to pay doctors as consultants, which can amount to individual doctors receiving tens of thousands of dollars or more each year.

The new code also incorporates the group's 2002 code, which prohibits more expensive gifting to doctors.

Items such as tickets to professional sports games and resort retreats are not allowed. The 2002 guidelines also asked that companies that finance medical courses, conferences and scholarships allow outside program coordinators to select study materials and scholarship recipients.

Drug Company Reaction

Approximately 40 drug manufacturers have agreed to the new guidelines. Drug companies on board with the new guidelines include Eli Lily & Company, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, according to The New York Times.

Diane Bieri, executive vice president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, adamantly expressed to The New York Times that the new code was not any type of admission that promotional items have or could influence doctors to prescribe the advertised drugs.

Instead, she said, these gifts were meant to reinforce the educational nature of the relationship between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry.

Not everyone is convinced that the voluntary moratorium on these promotional items is meaningful. Critics say drug companies still spend big bucks on other efforts to woo and influence doctors.

According to IMS Health, a health care information company, drug companies provided doctors with nearly $16 billion in free drug samples in 2008. The industry also spent more than $6 billion on sales activities such as drug representative visits to doctor's offices, presentations that included free meals and promotional freebies.

Doctor Reaction

Some doctors applaud the new guidelines, while others take offense at the claims that a promotional product could influence them.

Despite the new rules, doctors and patients are still likely to see the promotional products for some time because some doctors have stashes of pens and other items that have grown over the years.

Don’t expect the drug logos to vanish immediately; although if the new guidelines remain in place, over the years the obvious presence of the pharmaceutical industry in your doctor's office will likely become less apparent.

Hurt By a Drug? Speak With a Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been injured by a defective drug, it is important that you speak with a personal injury lawyer immediately. There may be a specific time limit for you to file your claim.


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