Health Care Analysis 30 (1):35-56 (2022)

Pharmaceutical sales representatives are one of the most frequently used drug information sources for physicians in both the United States and China. During face-to-face interactions, PSRs use various promotional strategies to impact the prescribing behavior. In the United States, PSRs provide physicians small gifts, free drug samples, and “sincere friendships”, whereas in China, they played an indispensable role in medical corruption over the past three decades. To cope with the undue influence of PSRs, both these countries have taken positive but insufficient measures to eliminate the effect thus far. By comparing the strategies of American and Chinese PSRs, it was found that building a friendly personal relationship with physicians in a relatively closed private environment is a key factor to exert an individualized influence on physicians, even in different social backgrounds and healthcare contexts. Therefore, this essay suggests that it is necessary to limit the establishment of personal relationships and maintain a more professional interaction to reduce the personalized psychological and emotional influences on physicians’ professional judgment. To achieve this goal, it is proposed to transfer the physician-PSR interaction to a professional public space as a supplement to current countermeasures and suggestions. The presence of others and the possibility of third party participation will stimulate more ethical and reputational concerns. It is hoped that the increased transparency of the interaction will promote participants to consider more professional norms and mitigate the undue influence of PSRs’ individualized strategies.
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DOI 10.1007/s10728-021-00438-w
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