Study finds detailing doesn't change behavior

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Not only does this article say that pharma rep detailing doesn't change prescribing behavior, it also says, "Robert Jacobson, a professor of marketing at the University of Washington Business School and colleagues at Columbia University in New York found that in fact, the visits could be counterproductive." Docs rely on more objective info on drugs, such as journals and society guidelines--and, one would presume, CME, though the article doesn't mention it specifically.

However, and it's a big however, the fine print says that "For one top-selling drug, which was not named, it would take three additional visits by a pharmaceutical sales representative to induce one new prescription, Jacobson's study found. It would take 26 additional free samples to induce the average doctor to write one new prescription."

Well, guess what? Pharma knows that. A scientific affairs manager I spoke with for Medical Meetings' December cover story on what's going on with commercial support for CME these days was pretty frank about how they market to docs (this part didn't make it into the article). He said, "Marketing is adult education. It takes about six interactions to change a physician's behavior. So you have sales reps, medical liaisons, CME venues, and promotional programs. That's how you change physician behavior.

"Ultimately, improved outcomes and modification of patient lifestyles are the outcomes we're trying for, but a lot of it revolves around changing prescribing habits," he said. "This job keeps my morals constantly challenged. I have to figure out a way I can go to sleep at night and still feel I'm benefitting patients. If we can get more patients into the system, we're going to save lives. I guess the corruption is collateral damage--and the government is looking at that."

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