Being (a) Patient
D, one of our secretaries, started to wonder. A few days back she went to see a doctor. Had always been a very fit young lady, D doesn't really have a doctor that she can call her own, so she went to a clinic recommended by some of our colleagues. It's one of those where you can find a group of doctors both GP and specialists (in various fields) under one roof. You can either go there to see one particular doctor (if you already have one in mind), or if you have no preference, you can see whoever doctor is available at the time. It's quite a popular clinic. Almost everybody at our office know of it, so it should not be so bad.
Been busy at work (because of us. Sorry D!) she arrived at the clinic near closing time, so the clinic was not so busy, although some doctors still seemed to have longer queues than others.
Not knowing which doctor to choose, D picked one with the least queue. There was only one man waiting by the doctor's door.
D took a seat in a distance from the guy.
"Just one patient to go before my turn. That's not too bad.." thought D.
But this guy apparently was not a patient. He, noticing the presence of a young lady in the vicinity, started a small talk.
"Do you mind if I go in before you?" asked the man.
What a question. Men can be really silly when they wanted to start a conversation, thought D. But D replied anyway:
"Well, you are here before I am. It's only fair..."
"Ah yes. But I am not a patient. Some doctors would like to finish with their patients before they let sales-rep in..."
So he was. He was a sales representative of a pharmaceutical company, and was there plugging a new brand of drug.
D was a bit curious how a drug sales rep works, so she asked more about his job and the products he was carrying. Didn't want to miss the sole chance of sitting closer to D, our sales-rep pulled out some brochures, and started explaining stuff. D couldn't get most of it, but she was impressed with how well-prepared he was. He had everything. Research papers supporting the drug, all kind of brochures, including the tiny little brochures in a size of namecard, and lots and lots of freebies: notepad, sticky-pad, coasters, keychains. He even gave D a free pen. It's amazing considering what he was carrying with him was a slim suitcase and nothing else. He was like a magician pulling tricks out of a hat.
The doctor's door opened. One patient went out and our sales-rep rushed in. (With a few moment to spare to give D his namecard. Yes, with his cellphone number on it. Hey, can't blame a man for trying, right?).
To cut the story short, About ten minutes later, the door opened. Our sales-rep left and D went in.
D explained to the doctor about her problem, and the doctor listened, asked questions and then said he would give her a prescription to take care of the problem. It's not serious, nothing to worry about. Just take the medicine regularly and D will be fine.
So the doctor took a pen and started writing the prescription. And then - to D's amazement - pulled out a card from his pocket and started copying the name of the medicine from the card, to the prescription.
It was the same card-brochure our sales-rep showed D just 15 minutes ago !
D froze for a while. She could not believe her eyes. Now this was either a really-utterly-wildy-unbelievably-one-in-a-million-chance type of coincidence that the sales-rep's medicine matched to the health problem she is currently having, or... :
The doctor wrote that simply because he was persuaded by the sales-rep and it had nothing to do with her problem at all.
Naturally, D thought it was the latter. And that upset her. But she kept quiet and civil about it. Despite the urge to punch the doctor in the face, D kept her patience, listened to the doctor, took the prescription and left.
The prescription ended up in the trash bin at her home.
"There is no way on earth I will take the medicine," said D. "I just don't trust that doctor."
Now, before you get all freaked-out about this, or you doctors get all upset, please allow us to remind you that we have no intention of doing any smear campaign against doctors. This may well be (or at least we hope to be ) an isolated incident. So please, don't generalize. There are many good, honest, dedicated doctors out there.
But it is only normal if we believe that there is something going on here: something between pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and how the relationships influences drug-prescriptions.
And mind you, this is not something that only happens in Indonesia.
Read what we found out when we dig for more info relating to this issue: The international herald tribune wrote about what is going on in the US .
"Merck was happy to pay $258 to provide Chinese food to the 20 or more doctors and employees of a pulmonary practice so that its sales representatives could tout the virtues of an osteoporosis drug and an asthma treatment in a relaxed setting."
"Across the United States, such lunches are believed to cost the pharmaceutical industry hundreds of millions of dollars a year".
"The doctors always insist that they can't be bought. But a former sales representative for two drug companies said the lunches were "incredibly effective" in lifting the number of prescriptions from practices that received the free food..."
Poor D. Now she does not know where to go.
 Please hold the free lunches - The International Herald Tribune - August 11, 2006, Page 6