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Medical Journal Proves Power Of Promotional Products

The Archives of Internal Medicine published a comprehensive research study last week entitled “Effect of Exposure to Small Pharmaceutical Promotional Items on Treatment Preferences.” The goal was to find out whether or not ad specialties influenced the attitudes of medical students toward the products that were being marketed. The findings: Yes they do. Distributors aren’t surprised. “I think it’s true. A lot of people at a lot of companies and businesses appreciate a gift,” says Kathleen Patton, president of Foley Associates, who often lectures about the effectiveness of promotional products at colleges. Lisa Davila, president of Bdazle Promotions, agrees with the findings of the study about the impact of low-cost promotional items. “It makes complete sense,” she says. “The more familiar you are with a brand, the more comfortable you are using it. The more you see a label or logo, the more it makes you feel warm and fuzzy.”

Because of the tightening guidelines regarding the use of promotional products in the medical field, four doctors decided to attempt to find out if the restrictions were really necessary. Their premise was that you “often assume that small promotional items are unlikely to influence prescribing behavior,” says the report. This attitude is, according to their findings, incorrect. They wanted to know: Do promotional products produce a more favorable attitude and do the policies against them work? The controlled experiment involved 352 third- and fourth-year med students at the University of Miami School of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (where restrictive¬†policies are in place limiting drug marketing). They were all exposed to branded Lipitor items without knowledge that they were part of a study. Fourth-year students at Miami had a more favorable attitude (by a score of 0.66) toward Lipitor compared to the control group (0.47). The scores were derived from an Implicit Association Test.

While the findings are powerful, the debate as to whether such influence is in fact harmful is an entirely different story, says Davila. “It’s a double edged sword,” she says. “There are plenty of products that work but they may not think of it. If it’s an allergy medication, many of which are the same, which will they prescribe? Probably the one that’s sitting on their desk [in the form of an ad specialty]. On the negative side, it could hurt smaller companies that have a good product and aren’t spending on promotional products.”

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