“ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT…” GIFTING AND DETAILING: HOW THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY HAS INCREASED THE SIDE EFFECTS WHILE JEOPARDIZING PATIENT CARE

Open Access
Author:
Applequist, Janelle
Graduate Program:
Media Studies
Degree:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
None
Committee Members:
  • C Michael Elavsky, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • gifting
  • detailing
  • pharmaceutical sales representatives
  • pharmaceutical
  • doctor patient relationship
  • pharmaceutical advertising
  • patient care
  • qualitative health communication
Abstract:
If health communication research is meant to improve the alliances between physicians and their patients, and also to strengthen public health practices, then one would assume that the patient must be perceived as a primary construct in the equation. The pharmaceutical industry is arguably an area that may not have the best interests of patients in mind, and is in need of research due to its ubiquity in society. The practices of the pharmaceutical industry were analyzed in this thesis, while providing concrete examples of the ways that commercial imperatives are overshadowing the importance of patient care. The research questions addressed in this thesis are: In what ways does the pharmaceutical industry influence patient outcomes? In what ways do pharmaceutical sales representatives influence physician behaviors? Do the processes of gifting and detailing increase sales, and if so, to what consequence? A political economy analysis was the method used to reach conclusions for this research. This thesis found that, while various determinants have impact, the real force behind the drug industry is the operations of sales representatives. These individuals are trained to study and befriend physicians in order to serve their company’s bottom line. Literature provided in this thesis shows that pharmaceutical training, along with incentives provided to doctors, significantly increases prescribing habits. Physician prescribing behaviors increase with the association of gifting and detailing, and these practices significantly influence the sale of prescription drugs. Limitations to this study included not having accessibility to pharmaceutical sales representatives for interviews and not providing data regarding the insurance sector. Future research should focus on an observatory view of the health care setting in order to understand patient perceptions of care.