These are some specific memories from a hospital lunch meeting over 10 years ago with a group of doctors from the Elderly Medicine department at a Birmingham hospital, however it was typical of such events.
I was a medical representative at the time, bringing the departmental staff a lunch in exchange for a miniscule amount of time to talk about my drug.
There clearly IS such thing as a free lunch as many of the doctors used to take a sandwich and walk off before the talk, I recall one of them muttering about the the quality of the mayonnaise and how the rep from Pfizer at least puts on a decent lunch (I wondered if she stayed for the Pfizer talk – probably not)
I started the talk, with such a dismal time allocation, that even if my pharmaceutical treatment was for premature ejaculation I would have struggled to reach a conclusion. (Nothing so exciting unfortunately – Gastric reflux)
If it was not bad enough that my words were smashing down on the stony ground of disinterest, one doctor began talking loudly on his mobile phone, I forced myself uncomfortably on, trying to explain to the group with something approaching passion that all Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are not the same.
The doctor continued to talk on his mobile, then a loud interruption from the chair ‘I will only allow one conversation at a time here’ he boomed.
At last I thought, a return to some decorum. I carried on talking but so did Nokia doctor. The chair interceded again, even more forcefully ‘ I have told you only one conversation at a time!’ and it was then I realized he was talking to me. ‘A doctor is on the phone this could be a life or death situation’
‘Fair enough but can’t he just cart his sandwich laden girth out of the room to check’ were the, thankfully, unspoken words of my l’esprit d’escalier.
Anyway Nokia doctor soon concluded the conversation, his wife now clear what he was having for his tea that evening. I was allowed to continue.
In the dying seconds I waffled something about how they should consider my PPI due to the low interactions with Warfarin in elderly patients. The short discussion resulted with unanimous agreement from the doctors all PPI’s are the same and that they will continue to use the competitor product (Did I mention to them apparently it causes terrible diarrhea? – probably a bit late now…)
As I hurriedly grabbed my case and coat a few of the more helpful Doctors enthusiastically explained where the nearest Waitrose was for next time.
The reason for the anecdote is not to mock doctors or the pharma industry but rather highlight and contrast an historic unhealthy working or rather not-working relationship between the 2 parties.
Fortunately things are different now. The feedback via projects I work on and the forward thinking clinicians I speak to, is that there is an appetite to work with Pharma as equal partners to solve some of the challenges in the NHS. Providing value, increasing efficiencies, improving patient outcomes, reducing hospital bed days through the use of innovative services and technology are just some examples.
The health service is moving on, but is the Pharmaceutical industry?
Will pharma seize this opportunity or will it be just another trip to Waitrose to stock up on the prawn sandwiches?