A funny kind of harrassment

Senators Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Dick Durbin of Illinois plan to amend the Senate health care bill to ban the mining of prescription data by companies such as IMS and Verispan. The Associated Press (Sens. move to block drugmakers from mining Rx data) quotes the Senators as saying:

…the measure will combat “harassing sales practices” and “restrain undue influence” of pharmaceutical salespersons.

I don’t think this amendment is a very good idea. There are better ways to address marketing issues than restricting the legitimate use of data.

But what’s really misplaced is the use of the phrase “harassing sales practices.” Doctors who are willing to see pharma reps get a lot out of it: information, lunch, trips, CME, often eye candy. Data mining makes the interactions more specific to the physician’s practice.

Pharma sales rep harassment of physicians isn’t a big problem in my book. Those docs that don’t want to see reps can –and do– just say no. In many cases docs who work for larger organizations are told by their bosses not to see sales reps. It’s not that the docs are fleeing harassment!

Patients and payers are the ones that bear the downstream impact of anything that goes wrong with the pharma/physician relationship. But that’s a different story than the one we’re told in this article.

December 11, 2009

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