More doctors, hospitals, and medical schools are limiting or barring visits from drug-company reps as the calls become more frequent and concerns grow that they may influence prescribing. An organization of doctors who pledge not to welcome pharma reps has only 800 members, but institutional players—including some states—are taking steps to restrict marketing, Newsweek reports.
Experts say even free pens and lunches may make physicians feel obligated—and free samples can create brand preferences among doctors and patients alike. And the priciest drugs are the ones being offered in samples, potentially hiking consumer costs. Big Pharma defends its efforts—$23 billion went toward physician marketing in 2004—as educational, but critics say the information is available elsewhere.