Here I am at the No Free Lunch booth in the Exhibit Hall of the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. The Pristiq coffee lounge is buzzing with caffeine-seeking psychiatrists a few yards away. Beyond that, a quarter mile of exhibits, small and large, some from drug companies, publishing companies, software companies, and physician placement firms.
We offer a No Free Lunch Pen Amnesty program, in which doctors can exhange their drug company pens for our No Free Lunch pens.
Hundreds of psychiatrists have strolled by, amused and intrigued. Many are skeptical, believing that lunches and pens do not influence their prescribing habits. Others tell stories about having prescribed Invega after the Risperdal rep came by and later wondering why on earth they did so. Another doctor said that, as an intern, he prescribed nothing but Zoloft because the Pfizer rep got to him before the other reps.
These are great discussions, often coming back to the question of "so what?" Are patients actually harmed by drug company gifting? These are difficult questions. My own feeling is that patients want me to make my prescribing decisions based on scientific grounds, and not based on the giving of gifts. I don't need the gifts, and I can get much more reliable information about drugs by reviewing the journals checking internet websites.
Time to sign off--the exhibit hall just closed, and they are turning the lights on and off. More stories later this week!