Pharmaceutical companies spend significant amount of resources on promotion influencing the prescribing behavior of physicians. Drug promotion can negatively impact on rational prescribing, which may adversely affect the quality of patient care. However, little is known about these activities in Nigeria as the most populous country in Africa. We therefore aimed to explore the nature of encounters between Nigerian physicians and pharmaceutical sales representatives (PSRs), and how these encounters influence prescribing habits.
Cross-sectional questionnaire-based study conducted among practicing physicians working in tertiary hospitals in four regions of Nigeria.
176 questionnaires were completed. 154 respondents (87.5%) had medicines promoted to them in the previous three months, with most encounters taking place in outpatients' clinics (60.2%), clinical meetings (46%) and new medicine launches (17.6%). Information about potential adverse effects and drug interactions was provided in 41.5%, and 27.3% of cases, respectively. Food, in the form of lunch or dinner, was the most common form of incentive (70.5%) given to physicians during promotional activities. 61% of physicians felt motivated to prescribe the drug promoted to them, with quality of information provided being the driving factor. Most physicians (64.8%) would agree to some form of regulation of this relationship between medical doctors and the pharmaceutical industry.
Interaction between PSRs and physicians is a regular occurrence in Nigeria, influencing prescribing practices. Meals and cheap gifts were the most common items offered to physicians during their encounters with PSRs. The need for some form of regulation by professional organizations and the government was expressed by most respondents to address current concerns.