I’m going to miss drug company pens. Some of them were pretty good pens. My favorite travel coffee mug came from some drug company – the name has worn off, alas – but I remember it was from Seroquel. I have a great refrigerator magnet/clip also came from Seroquel. (My wife is a social worked, which is how she got them).
I won’t miss drug company exam table paper. I was referred to a dermatologist some years ago who used exam table paper from some drug company – logo and all. Ask me about my level of confidence in this guy.
Ad specialties, as these various kinds of “chotchkes” or “swag” (“stuff we all get” – a popular term in the tech industry) are formally known as, are widely used in the general business community.As of January 1, the guidelines from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PRMA) prohibits swag, expensive meals, theater and sports tickets and the like. For the pharmaceutical companies, it is an enormous cost savings. I would suspect the ban will also force the sales reps to devote all of their time to trying to see physicians – and maybe sticking to the core topic – rather than using the swag as a means of entree. Samples, which can be used as a trial run for patients, are probably much more effective in the long run as well. The samples enable physicians to try out a drug for a patient who may be reluctant to spend what can be a considerable out of pocket expense. For the many patients without health insurance (a number that is growing), sample can be a significant cost savings.
I really don’t believe that physicians or practice staffs were really influenced by swag. I think that it can reinforce name recognition and a relationship with the sales rep, which is what really drives access and sales. But, the political pressure was too great, and the pharmaceutical industry has finally awoken to their credibility problem – one of their own doing.
For practices, using swag for patients, whether pens or clipboard, is tacky and unprofessional in appearance. Keep this stuff in the back room. You should be providing your own, limited, swag – for specific uses. Pens, for example, are kept out for use in filling out forms. Some items, such as water bottles, can be seen as having a relationship to good health and can be used in conjunction with presentations and sponsorships. The best giveaways for a practice? Patient education materials with your name on it, not a promotional piece from the drug company.
So, farewell to the pens, mugs and stuff. Maybe we should be taking all this stuff off their hands and selling it on EBay.