Sales Reps Educate Doctors About Anthrax in National Effort
In the first phase of a new federal campaign to boost the United States' preparedness for a bioterrorism attack, sales representatives from four drug companies yesterday delivered information about anthrax to doctors' offices in 13 U.S. cities, the Washington Post reports. The program, suggested by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and announced yesterday by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, aims to teach care providers to recognize early symptoms of a biological or chemical attack. Drug companies, four of which are participating in the initial effort, have agreed to allow 80,000 of their sales representatives to distribute the information on behalf of the federal government to try to reach every medical office in the nation. The drug companies are covering the cost of the effort. During their regular visits to medical offices yesterday, sales representatives from Bayer AG, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Eli Lilly & Co. and Pharmacia Corp. distributed 20,000 color brochures that included illustrations of people infected with anthrax to physicians in Albany, N.Y.; Boston; Chicago; Detroit; Hartford, Conn.; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Miami; Nashville; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Tampa Bay, Fla.; and Washington, D.C. The drug companies intend to solicit feedback from the doctors on the brochures and then will print hundreds of thousands more for nationwide distribution. In the future, sales representatives will distribute brochures on other bioterrorism agents, including smallpox (Gillis, Washington Post, 4/12).
According to bioterrorism experts, physicians often do not identify the symptoms of diseases that are rare or have long been eradicated. Last fall, two Washington, D.C., postal workers died from inhaled-anthrax infections after emergency room doctors diagnosed them with the flu (Reuters/New York Times, 4/11). Julie Gerberding, a CDC administrator, said, "My concern is that the farther we get from the [October anthrax] attacks, the more people get complacent. A tool like this helps remind people it's still an issue." The Post reports that the program likely will be more successful than mailing brochures to physicians because sales representatives are "welcome in doctors' offices" and tend to get "face time" with physicians on every visit (Washington Post, 4/12).