For the past few years, Dr. Eric Mizuno and his colleagues at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group have banned pharmaceutical-company freebies like sticky pads and calendars from their offices.
"It just felt right to not contaminate the environment," Mizuno says. The ban also reduces the number of sales reps crowding the reception area.
"There was a time when there were literally more reps in the office than patients," he says.
The amount of money involved in these giveaways is staggering. In 2004, pharmaceutical companies spent $37 billion on research and development, according to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the industry's trade association.
Drug companies spent another $27.7 billion on promotion , including $15.9 billion on free drug samples and $7.3 billion on sales-rep contacts (free lunches and pens), $4 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising and $500,000 on journal advertising, according to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical information and consulting company.
But could it all soon end?
Possibly, suggests Newsweek.
Update: See Pharma Marketing Blog re $7.3 billion on lunches and pens figure.