No More Drug Company Pens For Stanford Doctors

In order to combat the perception of undue corporate influence upon doctors, Stanford University is banning its hospitals from receiving all gifts from drug company reps. Effective October 1st, everything from pens to coffee cups to catered lunches are verboten.

Stanford University hospital patients can expect to see on their bills new line items for office supplies and break room materials.

(Thanks to Bill!)


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  1. AcilletaM says:

    You’d be surprised how effective a box of bagels/donuts/pens is in medical sales.

  2. Myron says:

    Good. I’ll spare you the details but here’s the gist of a conversation I had with a doctor.

    Doctor: You need to take Nexium
    me: Isn’t that expensive. Couldn’t I take the over the counter drugs that are similar.
    doctor: No. You need something stronger. You need to take Nexium.

    This is in the doctor’s office with, I kid you not, a Nexium clock on the wall and the doctor is holding a Nexium clipboard and Nexium pen.

    I assume the doctor knows best and of course their ethics can’t be compromised for a pen, or a clock, or a free lunch. But then why do the drug companies keep sending the reps with the free candy?

  3. dukerayburn says:

    While this is a step in the right direction, I never minded this sort of behavior from hospitals. Rather, the bigger problem is the catered lunch seminars, dinners, free trips, and all the other rigamarole that pharmcos use to bend these doctors. It’s shameful of the companies to behave this way and it’s even moreso for the doctors. They should have more integrity. But I guess since they don’t, the administrators have to step in. Bravo to Stanford. Excellent move.

  4. mschlock says:

    My mom works at Kaiser and often comes home with hilarious drug-rep swag. My favorite is the Valtrex fridge magnet. Valtrex is for herpes! Yay!

    Also, the Standford typo makes me hurt inside. Unless you did it on purpose…

  5. cmcinto2 says:

    Read the story. you’ll see this policy also bans free drug samples for patients. so much for saving insurance-less patients the cost of their small dosage RX.

  6. Rather, the bigger problem is the catered lunch seminars, dinners, free trips, and all the other rigamarole that pharmcos use to bend these doctors.

    From the article, it sounds like it ALL has to stop: from free tickets to baseball games to free samples of the drug they sell.

    (The health center at the college I went to sells the free samples they get.)

  7. daberkman says:

    My Dad’s a shrink and gets TONS of free shit. Like, vacations and stuff. He is utterly convinced that he is using the pharmaceutical companies like suckers and that their advertising has no effect on him. I doubt this is true but does anyone have any definitive proof that I could give to him to knock him down a peg and maybe cut my therapy that much shorter?

  8. Pelagius says:

    It doesn’t stop with pens and mugs. My ER doctor friend tells me of drunken orgies.. ok, no sex, but Imperial quantities of drink and food… provided to him and his fellow residents in Philly.

  9. In April, the Atlantic Monthly published a good piece on this problem (“The Drug Pushers,” subscribers only) that references a study showing a strong correlation between a doctor receiving free stuff from a drug maker and that doctor prescribing that maker’s medication at a rate well above doctors who received no free stuff. And all of those doctors claimed free stuff had no affect on their prescription decisions.

    That aside, if anyone comes out with a calendar called “The Ladies of Pharma Sales,” I’ll be first in line to buy.

  10. kerry says:

    Years ago I heard about a microbiology lab at a hospital where trade names for antibiotics had been effectively outlawed. You were expected to use the generic names exclusively, and the penalty for using the brand name was 25 cents. For those who have never spent time in a clinical microbiology lab, there are infectious disease doctors and med students coming through to look at and discuss patients’ cultures all the time. A great deal of the discussion revolves around which cocktail of antibiotics would be best to kill the infections, and most doctors are so accustomed to hearing the brand names that it becomes difficult to use the generic when prompted. I say three cheers to anything that puts a barrier between a physician’s medical knowledge and a drug company’s brainwashing tactics.

  11. Smoking Pope says:

    Yup, I agree with all of the above. Doctor buddy of mine in Las Vegas gets all kinds of swag from drug reps. I don’t think it’s impossible to take this swag and still do the correct thing prescription-wise, but it certainly can’t help.

    Best thing he ever scored was 4 tickets to Page/Plant on the Unledded tour. Just called a rep and said, “I need 4 tickets. Make it happen.” Sold out show, too.

  12. Starfury says:

    I worked for a medical group that was constantly crawling with pharmacy reps. Most of them were young, female, and attractive. One of the clinics had breakfast and lunch delivered M-F by the pharmacy reps. One day the CEO announced that all the samples, free lunches, pens, pads, clocks,and other stuff would stop cold turkey. The reason? R&D amounts by the pharmacy industry have stayed fairly flat over the last 7 years but the marketing amounts have doubled. Try turning on the TV without seeing a drug ad.

  13. Mr. Gunn says:

    There really should be a line you can draw somewhere. Buying tickets and dinners is outright bribery, but distributing pens and little usb drives and laser pointers and crap is advertising. I’d think the advertising kind of thing should be allowed, because those CellCept® pens sure are nice. ;-)

  14. any such name says:

    yep. did a 3-day temping stint for an office job at a psych office. they told me that lunch would be free, and from 12-12:30. i was very confused until i got there, and every day a different drug rep was in the office. a different one for each day of the week with a different meal. granted, it was a small office with maybe 5 docs and as many nurses and office workers, but still… man.

  15. Smoking Pope says:

    Another thing the drug reps do which is, at a minimum, dangerous is to provide narcotic medication samples.

    Same friend as above now has a no-narcotics policy after a drug rep brought in 4 cases of demerol based cough syrup which were stored in a back room. By the end of the day, the samples were all gone (meaning a lot of the staff was zoning out in front of the TV that night with dreamy smiles on their faces).

  16. juri squared says:

    It always bothers me greatly to walk into my doctors’ offices and sign in using a Drug X pen on a Drug Y clipboard, and checking my arrival time on the Drug Z clock. It’s worse than a sports arena.

    I did find the following rather amusing, though: a couple weeks ago, I had my blood drawn by a nurse. She brought in a little caddy with a big smiley-face sticker on the side. I told the nurse that I thought it was cute, perhaps to sooth needle-nervous patients.

    “Oh,” she responded, “We had to put that there. It says ‘Vioxx’ underneath.”

    Great to see my prescription dollars at work!

  17. Demingite says:

    Free samples.
    Free pens.
    Free clocks.
    Free meals.
    Free trips.

    They are not really “free,” though. They cost money to produce and distribute. And everyone — including patients — is paying for them.

    And the costs of a patient being given a drug, not because that’s necessarily the best thing for the patient, but because of a drug company’s bribery, are incalculable.

  18. robyns says:

    I’m so glad they’re doing away with this. Doctors think they’re above being swayed by freebies, but drug companies wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.

  19. DannyHaszard says:

    Eli Lilly 3Q 10% profit rise is nearly all from psyche drugs including zyprexa.

    How have they schemed to squeeze more money from their zyprexa cash cow when pill production has actually gone down?

    ANS-Eli Lilly profiteers have jacked up the price of zyprexa to the federal govt,from the Medicare D payouts.

    Eli Lilly is a big drug company that puts profits over patients.

    They covered up findings that their Zyprexa has a TEN times greater risk of causing type 2 diabetes

    Only 9% of Americans trust big pharma,right around the same rating as tobacco companies.

    Daniel Haszard Eli Lilly zyprexa drug caused my diabetes