The interaction between physicians and pharmaceutical drug representatives in the U.S. is a common occurrence that goes as far back as the mid 1800s. In the last few years, however, there has been considerable attention given to the issue of physician/pharmaceutical relationships and conflicts of interest that arise from such relationships.
- In 2007, there was approximately 1 drug rep for every 7 doctors in the US, and it was estimated that the pharmaceutical industry spent close to $30 billion in 2005 on marketing, the majority of the money spent on samples and detailing physicians (Prescription Project 2009).
- In 2004, the industry gave out free samples with a retail value of $16.4 billon (Cutrona et. al. 2008).
Some physicians have started to question the ethics of such interactions and the impact drug rep visits have on their prescribing habits, and ultimately, on their patients’ health. However, a 2004 survey by Eric Campbell et al in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 94% of physicians still accept payments or gifts from the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, physicians find themselves entangled with the pharmaceutical industry in several other ways.