The Company We Keep: Why Physicians Should Refuse to See Pharmaceutical Representatives
AbstractWhether physicians ought to interact with pharmaceutical sales representatives (reps) is a question worthy of careful ethical analysis. The issue presents a challenge to both professional integrity and time management. Empirical data suggest that interactions with pharmaceutical reps increase the chances that the physician will act contrary to duties owed to the patient. Ideally, a physician might both interact with reps and also do the research necessary to counteract the commercial bias in their messages. But a physician who actually did that research would, in turn, be devoting a good deal of time that might better be spent in other activities. The counterargument, that one is obligated to see representatives to obtain free samples to best serve one’s patients, can be shown in most practice settings not to be compelling. Physicians ought to refuse to visit with representatives as a matter of both professional integrity and sensible time management.