Mixed results for ‘academic’ drug reps

In the US, a bill is before Congress proposing to send trained clinicians into doctors’ surgeries to provide independent data about the relative benefits, risks, and costs of drugs, following research that suggests that such “academic detailing” reduces potential prescribing bias from the influence of drug company reps.

Medscape, the top-rating medical website for doctors and consumers, has just released results of a poll of its professional members asking what effect doctors think such a program would have? The results:

  • 18% thought it would significantly reduce bias
  • 33% thought it would somewhat reduce bias
  • 13% thought it would not reduce bias
  • 5% were uncertain
  • 28% said: “My prescribing decisions are not influenced by drug company representatives”

Should pharma companies be worried? As someone who has worked on both sides of the fence, my view is that the ones who should be worried are the ones with less effective or useful products. If your medication is the most effective at treating a worrisome condition or has a great life-saving profile, an academic drug rep will help you, not hurt you.