Pharmaceutical sales representative (formerly detailman) are salespeople employed by pharmaceutical companies to persuade doctors to prescribe their drugs to patients. Drug companies in the United States spend ~$5 billion annually sending representatives to doctors, to provide product information, answer questions on product use, and deliver product samples. Companies maintain this provides an educational service by keeping doctors updated on the latest changes in medical science. Critics point to a systematic use of gifts and personal information (details) to befriend doctors to influence their drug prescriptions.
Representatives have been known as "detailmen" as they acquire and use detailed personal information on doctors such as names of family members, golf handicaps, and even clothing preferences; along with what prescriptions the doctor is writing from IMS Health. The reps are under intense competitive pressure against other drug companies with similar products. Beyond meeting at the doctors office, or during leisure time, the symposium circuit allows reps to discuss with doctors about their preferences while a drug researcher presents a new drug to an audience.
Doctors can receive small gifts, such as free dinners, event or travel tickets, clocks, free drug samples and swag. In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed laws banning "gifts of substantial value" of drug companies to doctors, however this has changed the gifts from objects to meals and travel. Pharmaceutical Representative is a trade journal featuring common sales tactics such as how to close a tough sale by flattering a stubborn doctor.
Sales reps prioritize new "me-too" drugs that are expensive alternates to effective generic drugs, which could also have unknown side effects. Controversial inducements for doctors include jobs offers for the drug company, consulting fees, and travel to events in exotic locations where attendance is not mandatory.
In 2006, New Hampshire forbid the sale of prescription data to commercial entities.
In Australia the government funds academic detailers that are impartial medical students who provide drug information to medical professionals.
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