Drug Companies Agree to Stop Docs' Free Goodies

Critics charged stacks of free trinkets were attempt to influence doctors' decisions
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 31, 2008 7:20 AM CST
Duluth Clinic's neurology department manager gathers some of the 18,718 pens and other drug company trinkets purged from the health system as part of its "Clean Sweep" initiative.   (AP Photo/Julia Cheng)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – The piles of freebies drug companies lavish on doctors will go the way of the VHS tape as of tomorrow, the New York Times reports. The industry, facing criticism that it is trying to unduly influence doctors' decisions, has voluntarily decided to stop handing out pens, stethoscope holders, bandages, T-shirts, mugs, and the many other branded giveaways that surround physicians.

Proponents of the ban say the race car-like branding of just about everything to be found in a doctor's office had gotten out of hand and may have been subliminally influencing physicians. Doctors, however—some of whom have built up vast collections of freebies—are rolling their eyes. "It seems goofy to us," one obstetrician said. "We like getting our pens." Skeptics say the ban does nothing to curb the billions of dollars spent by drug firms to influence doctors in more substantial ways.