Drawing the line: Physicians share where they set gift-acceptance boundaries

March 1, 2009

National report - Busy dermatologists say that new Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) give-away guidelines reflect many policies they already had adopted.

National report - Busy dermatologists say that new Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) giveaway guidelines reflect many policies they already had adopted.

Most physicians grew up with giveaways as "part of the culture," says David S. Balle, M.D., a Grosse Pointe, Mich., dermatologist in private practice. But in the past two or three years, he says, "The question has been raised by many people: 'Are freebies appropriate?' It's something dermatologists should consider."

Since becoming board-certified, Dr. Balle says he's never been approached with freebies more costly than a meal at the local restaurant of his choice. Early in his career, he occasionally accepted these offers, he says.

Accordingly, he draws the line where the new PhRMA guidelines do.

"If a pharmaceutical representative wants to provide some sort of lunch in your office while talking to you about a new product or indication, that's appropriate," he says.

Avoiding obligation

Amy E. Newburger, M.D., director, Dermatology Consultants of Westchester, N.Y., adds that to avoid any sense of obligation, "We don't let reps in our office without an appointment. And we only make appointments for reps whose products we use, who have new information for us."

In the case of a new product or company, she says, "We ask for literature that we review before we let them in. I'm not going to have someone bringing lunch or taking our time unless there's a reasonable chance that we'll use their product."

Disclosures: Drs. Balle and Newburger report no relevant financial interests.