No Pen? Drug Makers Cut Out Goodies for Doctors

From the New York Times:

To Lehman Brothers, Linens ’n Things and the blank VHS tape, add another American institution that expired in 2008: drug company trinkets.

Starting Jan. 1, the pharmaceutical industry has agreed to a voluntary moratorium on the kind of branded goodies — Viagra pens, Zoloft soap dispensers, Lipitor mugs — that were meant to foster good will and, some would say, encourage doctors to prescribe more of the drugs.

No longer will Merck furnish doctors with purplish adhesive bandages advertising Gardasil, a vaccine against the human papillomavirus. Banished, too, are black T-shirts from Allergan adorned with rhinestones that spell out B-O-T-O-X. So are pens advertising the Sepracor sleep drug Lunesta, in whose barrel floats the brand’s mascot, a somnolent moth.

Some skeptics deride the voluntary ban as a superficial measure that does nothing to curb the far larger amounts drug companies spend each year on various other efforts to influence physicians. But proponents welcome it as a step toward ending the barrage of drug brands and logos that surround, and may subliminally influence, doctors and patients. (read the rest here)

I’m with the skeptics. Pharma will stop at nothing to spread their products. This perhaps helps them look good and less corrupt to the naive.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

9 Responses

  1. Sloopy Cowbell

    I guess that big pharma will just use cut-outs instead to bribe the shrinks. In britain, many medical charities are those cut-outs.. most of the mental health charities are very much in the throe of big pharma..

    A brief glance at the financial reports filed at the charity commission reveals what an extraordinary amount of money big pharma is dosing out to the medical charities every year.. of the order of hundreds of millions of pounds of dirty money.

    Very often, medical charities, like marjorie wallace’s SANE, are basically the propaganda arms of the drug corporations, working relentless to promote their drugs.

    The influential shrinks in the media, and on the lecture circuits, are employed as “consultants” by the medical charities. At first glance, it all looks very noble. Surely it’s wrong to criticise charity workers?

    In reality, the charity consultants are little more than snake oil salesmen, peddling big pharma’s wares, but, importantly, doing so at an arm’s length to the drug companies.

    Since medical charities ostensibly work “independently” of the drug industry, the charity and its consultants can make baseless claims about a drug’s safety or efficacy without any risk of censure.


  2. Van

    Isn’t it funny that this happens when the economy goes into the crapper?

    Personally, I think once things turn around they will be back to spending stupid money on stupid things for doctors.

    They will do anything to have their drugs on the market…


  3. Dear Gianna:

    Big Pharmaceutical will stop pushing their product about the same time elephants start to fly. A shift in tactics means absolutely nothing but a redistribution of money to another target area. If they had the slightest fragment of conscience; we would have seen a drop in drug use and an admission they have pulled off a huge scam on all those with Mental Health Issues. But the only way that will ever happen, is if they are forced to dragging and screaming all the way to the bank. They have government in their pocket with a few exceptions, and the American Medical Association and the APA certainly isn’t going to step forth and look out for the patients; since these organizations are created to promote their members, not watch over them as a policing body. So in essence no one is minding the candy store. Either way we are the one that gets the shaft. It amazes me how they get news to report this stuff; talk about a cute little propaganda trick with no meaning or benefit what so ever.

    Yours Truly,


  4. zen

    i’m with you too. I work for Asheville Cardiology and have been keenly aware of the huge volume of pens, staplers, post-its and plain ole gee-gaws that the drug companies slather on the medical community. I personally think the trinkets are the tip of the iceberg, BUT it’s a big obvious start. Drug companies will still sponsor “information seminars” that last 15 minutes, but you get free tickets to Biltmore to get in to see them and crap like that. The doctors know it’s a game and the vast majority of them are so concerned with the best possible patient care that they aren’t influenced.


  5. Well it’s about time! And definitely a step in the right direction! As an ex-Pharma rep for 15 years, I can tell you the waste those promo items produce is astronomical. I still have boxes of scratch pads, pens and other promotional items gathering dust in my attic. I can’t tell you the tons of literature and other such crap that I threw away over the years. All this cost rolls down hill to the consumer and drives up the costs of drugs.

    Not to mention, this crap is fought over by “respectable” practitioners…it’s absurd!

    P.S. Before anyone jumps me for my past profession, please visit my Web site at I’m on your side!


  6. Andrew

    Ha! With elaborate buffets, goodwill grants and other perks who needs a pen or calendar?

    I do agree that from an environmental perspective this is a good thing.


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