Aug 24, 2005
Dr. Matt Hahn is agitated.
Hot under the collar.
People around him are fat.
Out of shape.
And drug reps keep bringing junk food into his office.
Pizza with a ton of cheese.
Dr. Matt gripes about it.
He pushes back at the drug reps.
But they keep coming.
Junk food in hand.
A wave of junk.
Delivered by an army of drug reps.
And nothing can stop them.
Dr. Matt is a family doctor at the Tri-State Community Health Center in Hancock, Maryland.
Notice the word "health."
Dr. Matt sits on the drug/prevention divide.
Of course, we need drugs to treat illness.
But much of our illnesses are preventable.
Keep the drugs at bay.
Stay on the couch.
And drugs will follow.
So, what is it with drug reps anyway?
They don't bring grapes and apples as they travel the country.
They bring donuts and pizza.
Could it be that they are seeking to induce illness so that they may sell more drugs?
Or is it just that their customer pool is so saturated that grapes don't cut it?
Grapes don't cut it.
Bring on the crap.
When he calls agitated, we know what it's about.
What is it Dr. Matt?
You're not going to believe this.
No, sit down.
This one is special.
You are just not going believe it.
Just tell us what you have.
He told us.
And we didn't believe it.
Until he brought over the evidence.
A box of Mini Belgian Eclairs -- "filled to the brim with bavarian dairy cream and topped with chocolate -- contains 50 Mini Eclairs -- 241 calories per serving."
And a box of Belgian Mini Cream Puffs -- "filled to the brim with whipped vanilla dairy cream -- contains 70 Cream Puffs -- 305 calories per serving."
The boxes were empty -- the staff at Tri-State Community "Health" Center had devoured them instantaneously.
Who brought these wonderful items in, Dr. Matt?
The drug rep from Novo Nordisk -- the maker of insulin to treat diabetics.
Right there, on top of each container -- "compliments of Novolog Mix70/30."
Belgian mini eclairs brought to you by a Danish insulin company.
Now, Novo Nordisk is a leader in the field of diabetes treatment.
But they also project themselves as a company concerned about prevention.
As they say, "Novo Nordisk's aspiration is to defeat diabetes by finding better methods of diabetes prevention, detection and treatment."
We sent this statement to Dr. Matt.
Dr. Matt was besides himself.
"I doubt chocolate eclairs are part of their prevention program," Dr. Matt said. "If they are, their program is somewhat misguided. I would have to consider eating chocolate mini Belgian eclairs a non- traditional type of prevention."
"Did this company possibly find it ironic that they were handing out foods that worsened the very condition that their medication treats?" Dr. Matt asks. "Is there anything beyond selling more insulin?"
The pharmaceutical industry spends $5.7 billion a year on marketing directly to physicians -- that's $6,000 to $7,000 per doctor.
Benjamin Littenberg, director of general internal medicine at the University of Vermont, says that taking anything from drug companies violates a trust.
"They shouldn't be allowed to offer gifts, and we shouldn't be allowed to accept them, and it's appalling it's even an issue," Dr. Littenberg said recently.
Our guess is that most doctors, like Dr. Matt, don't want the crap that drug companies air drop on their offices.
But the drug companies keep it coming.
And if Novo Nordisk was embarrassed by their drug rep's eclair cream puff delivery, it wasn't saying.
A company spokesperson, Susan Jackson, said she couldn't comment.
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