The Drug Rep: Troubadour of Truth or Temptress of Evil?
With Dickens precision I was visited by Three Pharmaceutical Drug Representatives one morning. Followed quickly by another three reps (perhaps they smelled their competition). Yes, five out of six were women; yes, five out of five women were pretty. They were also knowledgeable and charming and good at their job. (Okay, they also had shiny hair and wore high heels- God Bless Big Pharma). I just finished reading another blog/ article/ twitter vilifying the drug companies-certainly an easy target- but also naming the ninja/agent/seductress/battalions of Drug Reps as the sneaky minions executing the evil will of said greedy pharmaceutical empire. When it comes to criticizing the Drug Industry or Big Pharma, many an article focuses on the Drug Rep.
“The tools in this deception are gorgeous female drug reps that are hired for their ability to transfix doctors.” This great insight is actually from an exemplary blog entitled “Beautiful drug reps: a symptom of a diseased pharmaceutical industry”. Interesting, I thought: it was not the evil, blood-sucking, greedy, heartless corporations or the inept, behemoth, governmental bureaucracies under fire, but the comely vixen in heels?
“Transfix”? No, but admittedly after a cavalcade of cantankerous and complaining patients, I welcome 15 minutes with a friendly face who laughs at my jokes. But, Let it be known to the public, drug companies and government that no one tells me how to practice medicine. I am not going to injure a human being for a pen light or sell my soul for a steak dinner.
And as for the female drug rep: they ARE better (than their male counter parts). They read personalities better, listen better, keep calm better. They interrupt less, and compliment more. They can better cool off a heated situation and avoid and an argument. They are kinder to staff and patients. They can take a joke and take a punch.
(An exception: once I explained to a young, lovely representative of a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical giant that their new product which was to be placed directly into the human eye had the exact same active ingredient as the well-known K-Y jelly “personal’ lubricant. I have since received my samples by mail.)
The men always seem like salesmen, and they cannot be funny without being crude. Perhaps there is a drive to “male-bonding” which may be an advantage in the bar, but just backfires in the office. The female rep is comfortable in the workplace, thus the office environs becomes more social. Even if I am getting a sales pitch, it feels incorporated into the general, friendly conversation. Heck, their brains are even “wired” differently from men and all of science knows it. “Women are set up to communicate more effectively”, was recently tweeted by the medical research fund-raising juggernaut, Project ALS org.
I am long out of medical school, I do not watch TV and I will not prescribe a drug based on a magazine add or internet webinar: I need my Drug Rep to bring me information, to come to me when I am too busy and give me the “latest”.
They are my troubadours, traveling from doctor-to-doctor then reporting back to me what other experts are doing. They are my “go to” when I have nowhere to go and my “connection” when I need a connection.
Like when my mother says that I am the best doctor-I understand the source. Bias is an understatement when dealing with the Drug Rep- I know- but doctors are trained to read and analyze the data. It is a real problem that the research dollar comes from private sector interests. With those funds comes corruption and loss of integrity. It is a huge crisis of faith when the doctors cannot trust what is prescribed and patients cannot trust what is put into their bodies. Discussion of the industry warrants more time, but for now I end with a note concerning the “messenger”.
Big Pharma certainly knows what it is doing: drugs actively represented by ad campaigns and Drug Reps wildly out pace other medications and generics. But get past the penlights, dinners and high heels. In a field of high technology and high pace, at a time of no time or little time, in a world of e-mail, voice-mail, instant message, IM, FB, twitter and texting, the Drug Rep remembers and practices what so many others have forgotten: the Power of Personal Contact.
Disclaimer The author has no financial interest in the above companies and has had two lobster dinners in the last 20 years.