Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Things that make me grumpy

Wallpapering.

I like most of my drug reps. I've said that before. But some of them drive me nuts. (If you are one of my reps who reads this, don't worry, It's none of you).

Drug reps often bring "patient education materials". Most of these are just trash, and I either refuse or toss them. They consist of thinly veiled ads in booklets that have a smattering of info about a disease and lots of big glossy "ask your doctor because you'll feel SO MUCH better on our product" ads.

Sometimes they actually bring in a very useful booklet, with info about the disease and fairly neutral information about treatments, with only a drug company logo on the back cover. I screen these, but if they're good ones I appreciate them and often give them to patients.

Any info that patients get in my office should come through me, NOT directly from a drug rep. So I don't allow booklets of ANY kind to be out in the lobby without me screening them first.

Most reps are fine with this. But a few aren't. And they engage in a thoroughly annoying practice called wallpapering. And it REALLY pisses me off.

Wallpapering is when they put pamphlets out in my lobby that are blatant "You should take Flatula, instead of Obecalp, because our drug is SO much better for you. Ask your doctor. NOW!" They are just ads, often hard sell. Sometimes with a big coupon for a free trial. My patients don't need that crap. And neither do I. And putting them out in the lobby makes it look like I've endorsed this product.

So I don't allow this, and if my staff sees it they tell them to stop. So some wallpaperers have taken it a step further. They actually keep track of when the front office staff are most likely to be in back for a coffee break, or know when the lunch hour is (when nobody is up front). So they come in then, quickly wallpaper the lobby with booklets, and then run off.

Sometimes we notice this when we get back. But they're good at putting them behind a plant, or under a magazine, or some other place where they won't be noticed from the front desk. So once or twice a week I do a sweep through the lobby looking for these things.

And we know exactly who the reps are who do it. I mean, you guys come by pushing this stuff regularly, and leave your cards, so we know who sells what. And when we ask them about it, they always deny it, "Huh! How did the Fukitol booklet get inserted between the pages of every National Geographic issue in your lobby?"

We ain't that stupid. If you have to leave these somewhere, just save us the trouble and use the recycling bin.

26 comments:

Old MD Girl said...

If you know who they are, then why don't you tell them they can't come back. I know you can do that. When I worked for the evil pharmaceutical sales + marketing consulting company, there were scores of doctors who wouldn't see reps from certain companies. Probably for a lot of the reasons you mention.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

OldMDGirl- I usually don't do that, because I need their samples.

I often use them as charity to help get my patients through the Medicare donut hole. Some of them just can't afford their meds during that time, so I try to help as best I can.

I'd rather put up with the occasional obnoxious rep than have my patients stop their medications.

Kim said...

See, if I worked in your office, I'd find out which car they drove, and wallpaper their car with their own leaflets.

But you already know I'm immature and petty like that! LOL!

DreamingTree said...

Maybe you could beat them at their own game by hanging a disclaimer in your lobby. "Literature in the lobby is for entertainment purposes only."

NeurologyWife said...

Yes, those drug pamphlets are annoying...but what I really can't stand are the religious tracts. Maybe this doesn't happen in your "upscale suburban area", but out here there are a number of patients who regularly "wallpaper" the waiting room with proselytizing pamphlets of all sorts that they tuck into the magazine racks for other patients. We have to root them out as well.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

NeurologyWife- I get those, too, usually from the temporal lobe epilepsy patients, but only a few times a year.

Usually they're more interested in converting me then the other patients.

student dr. blaze said...

I like DreamingTree's idea about the sign. It's clever.

This may sound nuts, but is there any way you can call the bosses of these particular drug reps? Usually they appear with their bosses once or twice a year. I don't know if it would make a difference, but perhaps if you politely (but emphatically) explained to the boss what their reps are doing, maybe they'd cease and desist with the devious tactics? Or maybe you could call company x and request a different rep? Just a thought. The services they provide are essential for underserved patients, but that doesn't mean you should have to put up with such nasty antics to get the services. After all, you do prescribe their products, which is what they want in the first place.

If that doesn't work, I'd totally go to plan B, Kim's suggestion. I'd take it a step further, though, and wallpaper their homes. *evilgrin*

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Blaze- Believe it or not, this is what the bosses encourage them to do.

One company in particular has recently fired it's most friendly, likable reps and moved to obnoxious, pushy ones, and this is what they want them to be doing.

student dr. blaze said...

That's just sick. Plain sick.

Also, isn't putting the pamphlets inside the magazines redundant since the magazines already have obnoxious ads about the drugs anyway?

What are your thoughts on direct to consumer advertising w/meds? Just curious, as always. :-)

Grumpy, M.D. said...

I hate DTC ads.

thegooddrlaura said...

I find the best way to torture people is to sweetly make them feel like $#!+. I went to Catholic school. It's an old nun trick. If you know who that wallpapering rep is, call him or her into your office. S/he is seated (make the chair as low as possible) and you are standing. "Why did you hide your advertisement in my National Geographics? Why? Do you think that was a professional thing to do? Who told you to do that? Is that how your mother taught you to interact with people? Why would you hide this from me? If you thought I would say no, why would you do it behind my back? That insults me and hurts my feelings. Didn't you think I'd find them? What did you think I would do when I found them? Did you think you wouldn't get caught? If you were in my position, how would this make you feel? What do YOU suggest that I do about this?" and keep asking WHY, WHY, WHY, WHY, WHY, always in a soft tone of voice. Keep them there as long as possible, as long as you have the time. Do it EVERY time. The key to behaviour modification is consistency.

Have fun.

Elizabeth - King J's Queen said...

Now that I have had a fully rested night of sleep after staying up way too late two nights in a row and reading your entire blog...

And, now that I am starting to recover from the multiple broken ribs resulting from sustained, uncontrolled laughter...

As a patient, I love nothing more than having various drugs hawked to me when I'm sitting in a doctor's office. No, I really don't need medical support for my prostate, being female and all. Then, there's the box of tissues and the soap dispenser in the bathroom. How long before they start placing ads for hemmorhoid cream on the toilet paper?

As a patient, I get aggravated by the DTC ads. "Ask your doctor if boogeyzoo is right for you." Um, no. I want the doctor to tell me what is right for me.

...retreating back to my soapbox now.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Elizabeth- "Boogeyzoo". I like that.

xtine said...

How about instead of recycling them, save it all up. Along with the subscription cards that come in magazines, and envelopes from junk mail. Make it clear their shameless wares are as valuable as all these items.

Put it all in a box for each, save it up, tape it up, and wrap it. Let them think they're getting a present of appreciation. Leave a note in the very top for when they open it, that says "You littered in my office. That behavior is entirely inappropriate. You are welcome in my office as long as you behave appropriately."

I dunno.
I'm the kind of spiteful bastard, who in addition to papering their car, I'd do it with their competitor's materials, and fish blood and guts injected into the car (best done in the summer, what with the heat, AND cracked windows). And paint as an adhesive.

My verification word is "restra". That sounds like a new-fangled drug name?

student dr. blaze said...

I think we may have just found our first Grumpy Fan Mission. :-D

ERP said...

Would you believe reps sometimes leave crap like this in the ER waiting room?!

Grumpy, M.D. said...

ERP- that's pathetic.

Miss Kismet said...

I'm all about covering their cars in the literature....except wait for a rainy day, so they get good and stuck :)

Suzanne said...

I wonder if the laws are different in Canada or if I just have pamphlet fatigue.

I didn't realize there were direct-to-consumer ads for drugs. Jeesh.

Anyway, I'm hoping you keep posting because I'm bedridden again!

The Mother said...

I'd call the company. All local reps have big bosses. They do not like it when the docs do not like their reps, or when docs complain about their reps.

Celeste said...

At least it's easy for me to ignore the pamphlets and be alone with my thoughts or tinker with my grocery list. The specialists I've seen have those perfectly awful television screens playing all kinds of advertising and supposedly educational spiels in the waiting room. If you didn't come in with a headache, you'll surely leave with one if you have to be there for very long at all.

thegooddrlaura said...

For as much as I like my torture them like a nun idea, The Mother has the right solution. I have a friend who used to be a drug rep. It's a cutthroat business and that middle management boss has a lot of power. They're always having to suck up to that boss. Call their supervisor and complain.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that the US and New Zealand are the only developed countries that allow DTC advertising.

Patients should absolutely know what is available out there, but I think these ads do far more harm than good. I've heard a lot of people say that they have quit a medication simply because of the side effects listed on one of these. Nevermind the fact that the side effects are the same as those that come with the prescription they've been taking for years and they have yet to experience any one of them. Apparently those aren't worth reading.

Obviously not the only problem with them, but I will never fully understand why it's legal.

MsLaurie said...

Yeah, DTC advertising is strange. I'm Australian, but was recently in the US and was just befuddled at the sheer volume of advertising - for hospitals, for drugs, for surgical treatments. It was just so so strange.

Things are getting more lax here in Australia, but DTC advertising for health products is pretty much limited to paracetamol and similar, and stop-smoking aids!

AZ_RPh said...

Speaking of DTC ads...

There's been a banner-ad on several websites for the last month, encouraging parents to cure their kids' study problems by putting them on Concerta (similar to Adderall or Ritalin, for the non-med readers.) ...I can't be the only one who's totally disgusted by the level this has stooped to.

chuckr44 said...

In the US, if you mail all these pamphlets back to the rep with insufficient postage, the receiver has to pay the postage due.

 
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