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Science vs. Sales: Academic Detailing Offers Objective Prescription Drug Information for Your Doctor

PPC News

February 11, 2008

Concord, NH – A force of 90,000 pharmaceutical sales representatives—many with no clinical background beyond a few weeks of on-the-job-training—are attempting to influence which drugs your doctor prescribes you and your family. You may have seen them in your doctor’s waiting room. Financially rewarded for pushing the newest and most expensive drugs, their focus is on achieving high sales figures. To help gain access to doctors, they come bearing gifts, meals, and other inducements.

A group of leading advocates, health educators, medical professionals, and policy makers think there is a better way to keep your doctor up-to-date on prescription drugs. The group met for the first time on February 11 in Concord, New Hampshire, as part of Prescription Policy Choices’ initiative to advance an objective, scientific approach to physician education known as “academic detailing” or prescriber education. The group heard presentations on existing academic detailing programs in Pennsylvania, Vermont, South Carolina, and abroad, as the first steps toward developing a collaborative academic detailing program in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Academic detailing replaces the salesperson in your doctor’s office with a highly educated healthcare professional who understands the science and focuses on quality and safety—not sales. He or she speaks to your doctor about the complete body of evidence concerning which drugs are most appropriate in a given situation. This valuable service makes it easy for busy doctors to get the up-to-date, unbiased information they want—but don’t have time to compile for themselves.

Prescription Policy Choices’ academic detailing initiative is part of a national movement to counter the harmful effects of excessive pharmaceutical industry marketing. Such marketing adds unnecessary billions to our nation’s drug expenditures each year. It also pushes rapid adoption of the newest —and least time-tested—drugs which can result in tragedies for thousands of people such as those harmed by the painkiller Vioxx.

Northern New England’s leadership surrounding prescription drugs is reflected in recent legislation such as laws requiring the monitoring of industry gifts and payments to physicians (in Maine and Vermont) and laws limiting industry access to data on physicians’ prescribing practices (in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire)—data which is elsewhere available for purchase. Both Maine and Vermont have passed legislation supporting academic detailing and New Hampshire has introduced an academic detailing bill (HB1513).

The Academic Detailing Planning Initiative is generously supported with grants from:

  • The Endowment for Health
  • The New Hampshire Medical Society
  • Community Catalyst/The Prescription Project
  • Maine Health Access Foundation
  • The Bingham Program
  • The Nathan Cummings Foundation

Ann Woloson
Executive Director

Prescription Policy Choices
P.O. Box 204
Hallowell, Maine 04347
(207) 512-2138
(207) 458-0416 (cell)
awoloson@policychoices.org