Allowing Pharma Sales Reps to Discuss Off-Label Drug Use Would Make Them More Helpful, Says KevinMD | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

In the past, pharma reps were a source of samples that I could provide to my poorer patients who could not afford their meds. This was a real value: I depended on reps to provide these medications for my patients. In the days of print-only access to journals, I may not have been as current with the medical literature. Reps would often come in and discuss breaking trial news that I had not yet had time to read about. Often they would discuss upcoming trials and plans for the future. We would have spirited “academic” debates over drugs, trial design, and outcomes or endpoints. When you were unable to attend scientific meetings, the pharma rep would often be able to summarize the latest trials after they were released.


Now, my institution no longer allows samples to be left, and honestly, if I need a drug rep to share the latest data with me then I am not doing my job as a physician. Online access to immediate data from trials upon their release makes keeping current much easier. Social media and other digital tools make it possible to attend national academic meetings such as the American Heart Association annual scientific session or the American College of Cardiology meetings allow everyone to be virtually present for groundbreaking presentations of late-breaking clinical trials.


Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the people who choose to be pharma reps: Many are smart, classy, well-meaning folks. However, there is a lot wrong with the antiquated pharma rep sales model in today’s world. Modern technology and easy access to data allow physicians to keep up with the latest clinical trials. Pharmaceutical detailing by reps is not very helpful; it is scripted and based solely on what the FDA allows them to say (think on label vs. off label). Reps are not allowed to talk about upcoming trials or discuss any off-label applications.