When superficial actions aren’t a reflection of a deeper change

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It often surprises me – and it definitely intrigues me – how people convince themselves that they are doing the right thing and that their actions will bring about lasting change in their lives, when clearly (at least, to those around them) they don’t. One example is weight loss; it absolutely amazes me how women seem to convince themselves that they are cutting calories when the Caramel Macchiato before them holds enough calories to feed a classroom of kindergartners.

Which is why, when I was sent the following article on, my first reaction wasn’t: “It’s about time”, but rather, “what are they going to come up with next to sell more drugs?”. Read on and let me know what you think.

No more free goodies for U.S. doctors

To Lehman Brothers, the retailer Linens ‘n Things and the blank VHS tape, add another American institution that expired in 2008: drug company trinkets.

Starting Thursday, the pharmaceutical industry has agreed to a voluntary moratorium on the kind of branded goodies – Viagra pens, Zoloft soap dispensers, Lipitor mugs – that were meant to foster good will and, some would say, encourage doctors to prescribe more of the drugs.

No longer will Merck furnish doctors with purplish adhesive bandages advertising Gardasil, a vaccine against the human papillomavirus. Banished, too, are black T-shirts from Allergan adorned with rhinestones that spell out B-O-T-O-X. So are pens advertising the Sepracor sleep drug Lunesta, in whose barrel floats the brand’s mascot, a somnolent moth.

Some skeptics deride the voluntary ban as a superficial measure that does nothing to curb the far larger amounts drug companies spend each year on various other efforts to influence physicians.

But proponents welcome it as a step toward ending the barrage of drug brands and logos that surround, and may subliminally influence, doctors and patients.

“It’s not just the pens – it’s the paper on the exam table, the tongue depressor, the stethoscope tags, medical calipers that might be used to interpret an EKG, penlights,” said Dr. Robert Goodman, a physician in internal medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

In 1999, Goodman started, No Free Lunch, a nonprofit group that encourages doctors to reject drug company giveaways. “Practically anything you can put a name on is branded in a doctor’s office, short of branding, like a Nascar driver, on the doctor’s white coat,” Goodman said.

The new voluntary industry guidelines try to counter the impression that gifts to doctors are intended to unduly influence medicine. The code, drawn up by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry group in Washington, bars drug companies from giving doctors branded pens, staplers, flash drives, paperweights, calculators and the like.

Read the rest of the article here – and let me know if you notice the caption for the picture heading the story. 1’200 pens! That’s enough to write for a whole lifetime, even for me!

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