I've had it. As of today, I am no longer allowing drug reps into my office.
Yes, until today, I was seeing reps a few times a month for 5 minute visits in order to keep up on trends in drug company marketing techniques. But today, an Astra Zeneca rep and his district manager came in to push Seroquel for bipolar depression. They came armed with the two studies that won Seroquel its FDA approval. The studies have their limitations, but somehow these reps didn't bring these up.
Instead, what I got was a ridiculous hard sell: "Dr. Carlat, given this data, would you choose Seroquel over the other atypical antipsychotics for bipolar depression?" I asked them if Astra Zeneca had done any head-to-head studies comparing Seroquel with the others. The rep adopted a pseudo-confused look, and said, "I'm not even sure that kind of study would be ethical--would the FDA even allow you to compare an approved drug with an unapproved drug?" I pointed out that the FDA, in fact, requires that drugs be compared with placebo, the ultimate in "unapproved" drugs, and that they deem this ethical enough.
He tried another tack. "What are the symptoms of bipolar depression that you have the hardest time treating?" I said that all the symptoms are hard to treat--that, in fact, bipolar depression is a very difficult illness to treat. Out came his computer, with a slide showing that Seroquel successfully treated every one of the depressive symptoms in one study. "Now doctor, if you had a patient come into your office with suicidal ideation, and you had an agent that would help those symptoms in a week, wouldn't you want to use that agent?"
Of course I would, and there are many other agents that will work better than placebo in a week. But my rep wasn't interested in talking about the alternatives. The focus, as always, was on his product, and on his bonus.
I've printed out the National Physicians Alliance's brochure, "Why Doesn't My Doctor See Drug Reps?" and will put it in my waiting room. I'll let you know how my patients respond. For now, I'm still accepting samples (making me the most despised of doctors among drug reps, a "sample-grabber") but that will be the next to go.