Know-Nothing Reps

CME providers are regularly urged to develop relationships with pharmaceutical company representatives, with the intent of teaching them about what is and is not acceptable practice in producing industry-supported CME. Those CME providers who complain that building such relationships has become impossible because of the proliferation of drug reps now have some numbers to back them up, courtesy of management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

In an article published in the third issue of the 2002 McKinsey Quarterly, McKinsey consultants Martin E. Elling, Holly J. Fogle, Charles S. McKhann, and Chris Simon note that between 1995 and 2001, the number of pharmaceutical reps doubled to 80,000. They further note that this population explosion has resulted in a sales force that tends to be poorly informed and generally undertrained. The authors write:

“In one extreme example, a physician told us that eight reps had given him samples of an arthritis/pain medication they were trying to sell but could recall no clinical details from their pitches. Doctors also want to know what patients think about a drug, how much they pay for it, whether they comply with its treatment regime, what HMOs will pay for, and how HMO formularies (approved lists of drugs) are structured. Yet the reps' knowledge is limited to the sales pitches devised by marketers at corporate headquarters.”

If the reps barely know their own products, it seems fair to guess that they'll be deeply unaware of the niceties of CME/industry partnerships. The good news is that the authors indicate that the pharmaceutical industry is beginning to realize that its present sales model is not working well, and that various sales and marketing experiments are under way to create stronger relationships with physicians — a situation that will at least allow for the possibility of improved relationships with CME providers.

The full article can be viewed at

And You Thought Reps Were a Problem

There was a news story making the rounds in mid-August to the effect that pharmaceutical companies were paying entertainment celebrities (Lauren Bacall, Kathleen Turner, and Rob Lowe were specifically mentioned) to tout the efficacy of their drugs on television news and talk shows. The stars wax eloquent about the drugs — without disclosing their financial ties to the drug companies.

In a story that appeared in the August 11 New York Times, reporter Melody Peterson wrote that Novartis, maker of Visudyne, an anti-blindness drug, paid Bacall to mention the product during an interview. Peterson noted also that several TV series have recently had plots that revolved around specific pharmaceuticals. Medical academicians interviewed for the story questioned the ethics of pharmaceutical firms using the same product-placement tactics as consumer-goods firms.


One World, One Vision of Health Care

Global Standards in Medical Education for Better Health Care, an international conference for medical educators, originally scheduled for September 2002, has been rescheduled for March 15 to 19, 2003, in Copenhagen. The conference is sponsored by the World Federation for Medical Education, whose purpose is to “…reach consensus about better health care…through educational programmes suited to societal needs.”

Founded in 1972 in Copenhagen, WFME has nongovernmental organization status in relation to the World Health Organization, close relations with UNESCO, and a formal relationship with the World Medical Association. To learn more, visit

Crossing Borders

The Sixth Annual Meeting of the International Association of Medical Science Educators, jointly sponsored by the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara's school of medicine, was held in July in Guadalajara, Mexico. IAMSE's global membership is composed of those who teach various sciences; however IAMSE also encourages CME providers to participate in its annual meetings. Visit

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