Why it's still ok for a rep to buy a physician lunch.
It is happening already.
Doctors are hearing about the Sunshine Act and shutting their doors to more reps.
The Sunshine Act forces pharmaceutical companies to provide a list of physicians who have been the recipients of lunches, breakfasts, and speaking appointments.
Dollar amounts are associated with their names and posted on company websites.
Although the act is not scheduled to go into full effect until 2012, some companies are reporting early.
Physicians-uneasy about their names being associated with pharmaceutical payments-are saying "no thanks" to rep lunches.
The problem? For many representatives, lunches were the only way left to see the physician.
What can companies do to curb the damage?
Be proactive. Specifically, provide reps with the following advice:
Remind physicians that they are not alone.
Representatives should remind physicians that thousands of other doctors continue to find lunch meetings to be an acceptable method for receiving product information and updates.
Remind physicians that costs are "filtered."
Physicians often overestimate the dollar amounts that will be associated with their names.
For example, if a representative spends $200 on lunch for the entire office, the physician believes that the entire $200 will be attached to his name.
This is inaccurate. The total lunch cost is divided by total number of attendees.
If there are 20 attendees at a $200 dollar lunch, the company reports spending $10 on the physician, not $200.
Remind physicians that everything is relative.
In some cities, local newspapers have published the names of physicians and dollars they have received.
However, newspapers typically report physicians who receive $50,000 plus for speaking engagements.
A cup of coffee, snack, or occasional lunch with a representative is unlikely to warrant attention.
Physicians should be reminded of the fact.
Companies that are proactive now can help representatives address the Sunshine Act in an honest and forthright way.
In the process, they can keep doors open and relationships intact.
Scott Moldenhauer is president of Persuasion Consultants, LLC, a pharmaceutical training and consulting firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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