If you've been keeping up with any of my blogumns, you might know I've a penchant for pocketing pens. Drug company pens to be exact...but I've only "officially" stolen one. It's been my experience if you ask the receptionist or doctor for one of those pens they get by the truckload along with other miscellaneous drug company merchandise like clocks, mouse pads and squishy heads...they will more than likely accommodate you. Unfortunately, I have too many of these free pens lying all over the house, in my car and in my purses to count. I say it's unfortunate because I've been to that many doctors.
Now the way I see it - the pens are free...the drugs are pushed, the drug reps need to unload them and the doctors need to keep those reps busy, so I'm actually doing them a service by providing them more opportunities to drop more pens off. Plus, I'm pretty much paying a lot to see these people, the least they could do is "toss me a cookie" once in a while in the form of a pen.
And having one lying around along with 25 of its "clones" sitting in a drug provided coffee-cup is akin to dangling a carrot in front of Ole Bessie. Two guesses as to whether I'm the carrot or Ole Bessie (and keep the side remarks to yourselves). They won't ever miss ONE - they have a never ending supply of them...plus I DO bother to ask politely. There's plenty of people who just abscond with them without so much as a "howdy do" and a tip of their hat. You know, those hats they don't ever wear anymore - which I referred to in my prior "Men Without Hats" blog. (Yes...this is how I getcha interested in reading another blog...or hopefully get you interested.) As for those pens, in all shapes and sizes, colours and materials, each proudly sporting their drug name emblazoned on it...in near full regalia as it were. Some are very handsome indeed...and therein lies my fascination with drug pen acquisitions. This obsession of mine is purely based on getting something for nothing which is in a pretty package that is useful...especially useful to me, actually, because I sometimes write my blogumns with those very same pens. See? What better justification for an inanimate object infatuation could anyone want?
But it is a sad day indeed. I was gleefully, cheerfully, and oh so set-uppingly administering my "you just can't possibly deny me one little pen when you have hundreds in the back" I've used countless times before when out of her mouth I heard those nine little words that would change my life as I know it. "They aren't allowed to give us drug merchandise anymore." She continued, "These are the last of them...after we run out...we'll have to use our own." Insert one of those Hollywood "Wilhelm Screams" here. Surely, she's just messing with me - she just won't pony up the pretty pen for pathetic me. How dare she...why, I bet she takes those things home and sells them on eBay. And I left.
What fortuitous event met me at the elevator...why it was a drug rep herself with her rolling carrying case of goodies...rolling because all those squishy heads, clocks and pens get rather heavy when you have to lug them around, office door to office door. The glamorous life of a drug rep...must be hard work. Lunches every day...rolling her little personal trolley into doctors' offices day in and day out, whilst a myriad of patients huff "why I never" in unison, and wait until you've uttered your rehearsed drug soliloquy speech - then you bound back out, hands waving and many "see you next weeks" being bantered about with as much enthusiasm as one can muster up for people you don't give one darn about.
So...I gazed longingly at her laden pack and, while never looking up to make eye contact, asked, "I just heard a horrible, vicious rumour...please tell me is not true! The receptionist wouldn't part with a pen...said you guys aren't hawking them anymore...surely she's having some type of mother hen complex with them...correct?"
"No...we aren't allowed to give them out anymore...it's a new law." So, I thought to myself...'bribery disguised in cylindrical plastic form...is...sniff...sniff...a thing of the past; it is, alas, no...sniff...more.'
While I never did condone them wining and dining and schmoozing and trinket-ing the physicians...I really had no problem taking pens promoting drugs I'd never take in my lifetime. My Viagra pens are one of my prized possessions...battles in this house have been won and lost just over coveting rights alone.
Now in case you are wondering just what is and isn't allowed and why the lowly pen has now become a professional pariah...here's a little breakdown, courtesy of the "Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals," Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, July 2008; that, come January 2009...will go into effect:
Educational items, such as anatomical models, worth less than $100.
"Modest" in-office or in-hospital meals with informational sessions by drug reps.
"Modest" restaurant meals as part of an informational session by an expert speaker.
Funding for CME programs.
Payments for bona fide consulting or advisory arrangements.
"Fair market value" payments for speaker training.
Funding for scholarships chosen by training institution.Not acceptable
Reminder items such as pens, notepads, coffee mugs and
wall clocks. (New in 2009)
Restaurant meals with drug reps. (New in 2009)
CME grant funding based on marketing objectives. (New in 2009)
Sports equipment; tickets to sports or entertainment events.
Physician travel or lodging subsidies for meetings or CME.
Payments for sham consulting or advisory arrangements.
Financial support "in exchange for prescribing products orfor a commitment to continue prescribing products."
So, stock up on those "not acceptable" items while you still can get your little hands around them...as they might be worth a small fortune one day on eBay...if they don't rescind the laws. Or better yet, send them to me for addition to my own personal stockpile of drug-rep paraphernalia. Hey, those pens just might afford me the opportunity to send my daughter to Med School.
Ahhh...irony. Gotta love it.
Ahhh...irony. Gotta love it.