Friday, November 14, 2008

Doctor Swag

Among the items are super soft micro cleaning cloths for eyeglasses, tons of ball point pens, a pass case, white board markets, correction tape, cable organizers and a dehydrated dish towel that plumps up to full size once you get it wet.

One of my students is married to a doctor and, on occasion, she has handed off portions of gifts that have been given to her husband. Some of the gifts she shares with me are from patients who give him case-size portions of various food items. She's given me fruit jellies, melons, and dried sweet potato. She's also give me notepads and pens before. A few weeks ago, she also gave me some facial tissues that her husband had been inundated with by companies selling allergy medication.

I mentioned to her that I could make use of the items she gave me and would be glad to take her "cast-offs". Today, she brought a small shopping bag stuffed with the assortment above. All of these items are freebies given to the doctor by various companies that want him to prescribe or recommend their products to patients. While this may look like bribery, I'm guessing it's more about brand name recognition.

One of my other students works for a pharmaceutical company and she spends a lot of her time visiting hospitals, clinics, etc. and hawking her company's wares. A lot of what she's encouraging nurses, doctors, and medical professionals to recommend are nutritional supplements. Her company spends a fair amount of their resources taking beneficial components of naturally occurring substances and extracting them to put into pills, powders or liquids so people can ingest them more efficiently on a regular basis.

After receiving this bag of doctor swag from my student, I couldn't help but wonder just how much her husband receives and how much is wasted. He's a single doctor with a single clinic and the amount of stuff he gets overflows such that he, his wife, her family, and his staff couldn't possibly use it all. My student gave some of it to me, but I'm guessing there is far more piling up in a corner somewhere. The way in which business is done in this way must contribute greatly to the wasting of resources in developed countries. How much oil is used on unwanted pens? How many trees are cut down to make gift boxes for those pens? It's a shame, really, but there's not much to be done about it. Still, I feel a little better knowing that I can either use these things or pass them along to someone else who can.


Anonymous said...

There's lots of waste. The place I work, we collect stuff from companies in our area then sell it to people looking for inexpensive supplies for art, craft, science projects…

In the medical area: We had an ob-gyn nurse saving surgical kits from c-sections. There are kits with all the possible things that might be needed for the procedure, but if the surgeon only needs a particular knife (or whatever), they open the bag, use it and toss the rest of the "contaminated" materials!!!!
Or if a medical supply company gets a dented box (not broken, not disturbing the contents), they usually throw it out. Perfectly fine gloves, gowns, head and shoe covers, sheets, pads become trash.

And a lot of promotional material like you talk about is wasted not only by the medical/pharmaseutical industries but also by the university and businesses. Borders Headquarters is in town and their franchises ship expired promo materials back here. Truckloads of perfectly good stuff they couldn't give away. CDs, games, posters, notepads, signs, displays, craft kits…

There is one company that makes caps, like for milk cartons, and the standards change and 6 pallets of caps are out-dated. Another company gives us jugs, bottles, that don't have caps that fit!!

We are a non-profit company and are not getting rich, but it's nice to think that the stuff we sell gets some use! There are similar companies to ours in some cities in the U.S., Canada, Australia, England, and Italy. I haven't found one in Japan, though.

'badmoodguy' is mike said...

No only do they get lots of other goodies, but they get lots of pill samples. My doctor will regularly give me lots of samples of prescription allergy meds so I don't have to buy the OTC kind and my insurance doesn't cover prescription allergy meds. So, it can be helpful.

A good friend of mine dated a surgical nurse for about 25 years and she would bring him home unused, single use surgical instruments that they didn't use in procedures. Scalpels, tweezers, forceps, etc. They are invaluable to him since he's an electronics engineer and works with lots of weird stuff.

It is shocking, though, the amount of stuff that pharmaceutical companies will give away. I guess they can afford it judging by the amount of money scripts cost.