Sunday, June 10, 2007

Psychiatric Drug Swag Marketing a Way into Your Mind

(cc) Douglas CooteyYou may not benefit from it, but you've sure seen it. You most likely can't look at any desk at your doctor's office without seeing Big Pharma branded swag. From the pen the doctor uses to write out your prescription to the clip board he writes upon, advertising bombards the doctor in an effort to sway his decisions. Some might say that there is no harm in this. All of this swag is free and the doctor is not forced to prescribe any medication, even if the pen he is using is loudly branded. However, knowing that Big Pharma pays doctors (as detailed in books like this) to promote their wares, I have grown very uncomfortable with all the swag in my doctor's and psychiatrist's office. How can I be certain they are not harmfully influenced?

Wired magazine is concerned about this as well and has a short article on the types of freebies psychiatrists could expect to walk away with at the American Psychiatric Association's annual conference in San Diego last month. Some of the swag is pretty slick, like leather bound journals and staplers. Doctors and psychiatrists receive so much swag that they cannot use it all and will often happily give it away to interested patients. I once had a doctor hand me an armful of pens for my kids. He didn't need the swag. Well, except for the branded clocks on the wall, the nifty branded clipboards, the colorfully branded calculators, the branded pen holders for all the nicer freebie pens, etc. So much swag is sent to doctors and psychiatrists that it is a wonder if they ever need to visit office supply stores anymore.

If all of this concerns you then you could do as Dr. Dan Carlat does and petition doctors and psychiatrists to not play Big Pharma's game by rejecting the pricey tosh, as detailed in the linked article. Other doctors, such as Bob Goodman, have started to organize national campaigns to fight the problem. Dr. Goodman's NO FREE LUNCH is a witty site offering information for doctors interested in joining the movement. There's even a pen amnesty page to turn in all those branded pens filling desk drawers in your doctors office in exchange for non-branded ones.

If you are concerned that Big Pharma has sway over your doctor, you might want to point your doctor in the direction of these websites and explain your feelings on the subject. I know I plan to mention my concerns next time I'm in for a check-up. At worst, the office swag may be no more than junkmail noise to your doctor. However, the pricier the gift the more we have to be concerned if unsafe medications are being pushed on us because our doctors haven't had to pay for their own lunch in a while...

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