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Pharmaceutical sales representatives: no hopes for improved care

Prescrire is suspending its sales rep monitoring network: it has done its job in proving that doctors must seek their drugs information elsewhere.

In 1991, at the request of subscribers, Prescrire set up a system to monitor pharmaceutical sales reps. The idea was simple: to compare the reps' sales patter with the official information on drugs.

A few dozen practitioners, rotated regularly and covering at least two thirds of France, filled out a standard report form, enabling Prescrire to evaluate the information provided by the sales reps. Methodological precautions were taken to ensure the quality of the quantitative results from the watchdog network.

The annual findings of this network were consistent: around 25% to 30% of the clinical uses advertised by the reps were at variance with the approved indications, 15% of the dosage schedules differed from the approved recommendations, while the risks associated with drugs – contra-indications, adverse effects and precautions for use – were mentioned in less than 30% of cases.

Prescrire has now put an end to its monitoring network, to devote its resources to investigating other promotional tactics aimed at health professionals and the public.

©Prescrire June 2006

Source: "15 ans d'observation et un constat : rien à attendre de la visite médicale pour mieux soigner" Rev Prescrire 2006 ; 26 (272) : 383-389.

“15 years of monitoring and one simple conclusion: don’t expect sales representatives to help improve healthcare quality” Prescrire Int 2006; 15 (84): 154-159. (Pdf, free)

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