Should Pharmaceutical Sales Professionals Educate Doctors About Drug Risks?

A recent study of 255 physicians in Canada, the United States and France highlights the important impact of pharmaceutical sales on doctors’ decisions and physicians’ reliance on sales representatives’ willingness to educate them on the full effects of the drugs they are selling.

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Photo source: presse-inserm.fr

Researchers, who looked at doctors in Montreal, Vancouver, Sacramento and Toulouse, were interested in finding out how willing sales professionals were to discuss side effects of drugs. What they found was that on average, 66% of the Canadian physicians reported that they received no information about adverse side effects whatsoever. Globally, they found that only 6% of sales representatives mentioned serious side effects.

This is to be contrasted to the amount of representatives who made the benefits of a particular drug part of their sales pitch. Looking at all four locations, it averaged to around 80%, with Canada having little deviation from that range.

The effect of pharmaceutical sales on what doctors prescribe

Numerous studies have already demonstrated that pharmaceutical sales works, having a strong effect on what the doctor will prescribe to patients. Of course information about side effects is readily available to doctors, who learn to figure out this information as part of their medical training.

In Canada, medical sales are regulated by research-based pharmaceutical companies (Rx& D), a professional organization that also has an important role in setting standards for things like pharmaceutical quality control. France, meanwhile, has the additional measure of a Charter of Ethics for Pharmaceutical Sales Visits, in effect since 2005. What does this mean for results? France is actually a leader in both discussing the adverse and positive side effects of drugs, having a full 7% more willingness to discuss the benefits than the average. In actuality, the difference between countries is also in sales strategies, with France being more informational about their approach overall.

Whether you work in the lab in clinical research or as a sales professional yourself, a career in the pharmaceutical industry is going to put you in a crucial role for deciding what treatments patients receive.

Do you think medical side effects should be explained to doctors or left up to them to research?