One of the main functions of pharmaceutical representatives is to provide free samples to doctors offices presently instead of authentic persuasion, and these samples in themselves cost billions to the pharmaceutical industry. Yet arguably, samples are the most influential tool in influencing the prescribing habit of a healthcare provider. Let me be clear on that point: Its samples, not a representative, that may be the top influencer of prescribing habits.
Yet considering that drug promotion cost overall is approaching $20 billion a year, combined with about $5 billion spent on drug reps themselves, what if there is another way for doctors to get free drug samples, which is what they desire for their patients to initiate various treatment regimens? What if prescribers could with great elation avoid drug reps entirely?
There is, actually, a way to do this, but it is limited. With some select, smaller pharma companies, doctors have the ability to order samples by printing order forms online for certain medications through certain Web sites associated with the manufacturers of these samples. Some examples are such medications that can be ordered in this way are Keflex, Extendryl, and AllerX. Possibly several more can or are available to prescribers in this way. Others, however, cannot be acquired by this method.
So in some situations, a doctor can go online, print off a sample order form, fax it into a designated fax number after completion of the form, and the samples are shipped directly to the doctors office with some products thanks to their manufacturers who provide this avenue. There is no review of the doctors prescribing habits. No embellishments from reps actually sound pretty good.
Usually, this system is available for those smaller companies with very small sales forces to compensate for what may be vacant territories, but can be applied to any pharmaceutical company who, upon discretion, could implement such a system.
Now, why is this not done more often? Apparently, it is legal to obtain samples in this manner. If samples are the number one influencer of prescribing habits, why spend all the money on reps to deliver samples personally? Its worth exploring, possibly, since the drug rep profession has evolved into those who become UPS in a nice suit.
Think of the money that could be saved if more pharma companies offered samples to doctors in this manner. Furthermore, additional benefits with this ideal system are that there is no interruption of the doctors practice. And again, there is no risk of bias presented to the doctor by a rep, as they would avoid contact with reps if they order samples through this wayto have the samples directly shipped to their office.
When samples are shipped to doctors offices in this manner, prescribing information of the particular medication is included with the samples shipped. Doctors can order and utilize samples according to their discretion, and would be free of interference from the marketing elements of pharmaceutical corporations. Patients benefit when this occurs.
Considering the high costs associated with the pharmaceutical industry, having samples shipped directly to doctors offices should be utilized more than it is presentlyregardless of the size of the pharmaceutical company.
Something to think about as one ponders cost savings regarding this issue.
Dan AbshearWentzville, Mo.
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