Dangerous liaisons--physicians and pharmaceutical sales representatives.

Mónica Granja


Interactions between physicians and detailers (even when legitimate ones) raise scientific and ethical questions. In Portugal little thinking and discussion has been done on the subject and the blames for bribery have monopolized the media. This work intended to review what has been said in medical literature about these interactions. How do physicians see themselves when interacting with pharmaceutical companies and their representatives? Do these companies in fact change their prescriptive behaviour, and, if so, how do they change it? How can physicians interact with detailers and still keep their best practice? A Medline research, from 1966 till 2002, was performed using the key-words as follows. A database similar to Medline but concerning medical journals published in Portugal, Index das Revistas Médicas Portuguesas, was also researched from 1992 to 2002. Pharmaceutical companies are profit bound and they allot promoting activities, and detailing in particular, huge amounts of money. Most physicians hold firmly to the belief that they are able to resist and not be influenced by drug companies promotion activities. Nevertheless, all previous works on literature tell us the opposite. Market research also indicates that detailers effectively promote drug sales. Various works also suggest that the information detailers provide to physicians may be largely incorrect, even comparing it to the written information provided by the pharmaceutical companies they work for. The frequency at which portuguese physicians (especially family physicians) contact with pharmaceutical sales representatives is higher than the frequency reported in countries where the available studies come from (namely, Canada and the United States of America). This may put portuguese physicians at a higher risk, making it imperative that work and wide debate are initiated among the class.

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