The Provider Gift Ban: What Happened to All Those #Pharma "Tchotchkes?" | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

For years, pharma helped keep the manufacturers of Lipitor pens, Prevacid golf club head covers, and other promotional items in business. But when the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) imposed a voluntary ban in 2009 that relegated these and similar tchotchkes to the promotional netherworld of eBay auctions and displays in physicians' offices, nobody expected them to have much of a collectible afterlife.


The decision to enact the ban was a no-brainer. PhRMA was not alone in sensing a need to clean up the industry's image by addressing the ethics of providing an array of branded gifts to physicians. Gimmicky marketing mementos like Post-it notes and pens may have seemed harmless enough, but the prescribing influence they carried came into question.


“These items were constantly in view and intended to keep specific drug names uppermost in physicians' subconscious. And it worked,” says Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, an associate professor in the departments of pharmacology and physiology and family medicine at the Georgetown University Medical Center. Fugh-Berman is also director of PharmedOut, a Georgetown research and education project that, per its website, “promotes rational prescribing and exposes the effect of pharmaceutical marketing on prescribing practices.”


These relics of the past have a certain value for those on the hunt. One eBay seller hopes to fetch $20 for a blue pill-shaped Viagra promotional clock that doubles as a business card holder, an item that was once a big weapon in the Pfizer sales rep's arsenal of freebies. And those golf club head covers — in the shape of a stomach, designed to somewhat subtly remind docs of Prevacid's utility in treating heartburn — still make occasional appearances on golf courses across the U.S. In fact, AbelsonTaylor president and CEO Dale Taylor recently spotted a set on a Chicago fairway — in mint condition, no less.