In the Katz, Caplan and Merz article, they speak about how the exchange of small gifts between physicians and pharmaceutical companies tend to be allowed. What the authors suggest is that even these small gifts, which can be as small and insignificant as stationary, have the potential to sway the physician, even if subconsciously.
Volunteers in hospitals are, in my experience, instructed to be extremely strict about receiving gifts from the patients or their families. Even an offering of a coffee is to be denied by the volunteer, because the thought is that these families might be given preferential treatment by the volunteer. If guidelines for volunteers, who have no say in the actual treatment of the patient, say that they cannot receive gifts for fear of influence, than doctors too should not be able to receive gifts of any kind.
That being said, in reference to the Katz, Caplan and Merz article in particular, I do not think that those small gifts will always be able to influence the physician. Pens, stationary, or mugs pile up and must become a nuisance. It doesn’t seem to be the case that every small gift is going to result in another prescription for that particular brand. Everyone today is bombarded by constant encouragement to subscribe to a particular brand or product through different promotions and sales, and we, the general public, do not fall victim to each and every of these promotions. I fail to see why this would be different for physicians.
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