Why drug reps Remind me of Going to the Butcher

I miss the days when drug reps circulated conferences and gave you a nice handful of pens, post-it notes (pardon, page markers, they probably weren’t made by post-it), a stress ball, and maybe even a coffee mug. It brought my mind back to a simpler time when I’d go to the butcher’s shop with my mum and I’d get a free balloon and a little boy (cocktail sausage/chipolata/cheerio, or insert your regional name for processed meat treat).

Nowadays, drug reps aren’t allowed to give you free stuff any more  I don’t see why not? I’m a psychologist, it’s not like I’ll be prescribing any drugs, but I have to know about medication and understand pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. The advertisement of psychiatric medication is restricted in Australia, so there aren’t many opportunities to hear how names of drugs or the neurotransmitters they actually affect are pronounced. I remember once sitting through a presentation in honours wondering who on earth Nora Pinefreen was.

Half the fun with drug names is trying to take a guess at how they are pronounced, and the origins of the name. Strangely, this was also great part of the fun of going to the butcher’s when I was older. Our local butcher’s shop was run by a family of four: Mum, Dad and their two teenagers, who were apprentices. They were the most lovely people, but none of them could spell.  Trying to interpret the chalkboard outside with the specials of the week was an exciting challenge (who knew there were so many ways to communicate “Schnitzel”?). Fortunately, the family didn’t appear to mind people poking fun. In fact, I sometimes wonder if it was a sneaky marketing strategy to bring people into the shop.

Customer: “Excuse me, but what is a rice owl?”
[Butcher stares blankly].
Customer: “r-i-c-e-o-w-l?”
Butcher: “Rissole, Love! A rissole! Best you’ll ever have too! Here, take a couple home for tea. See what you think.”

I miss my pretty page markers with unpronounceable and rather meaningless drug names. It took me two years before I actually looked up the name of a drug printed on my wide, neon-green note pad that I used for making shopping lists. Oh, so that’s why the lady next to me in the supermarket was giving me funny looks when she saw my milk and bread had a side of Flutamide.

A few of the bizarre drug names I’ve come across are:

Dogmatil (for humans, not canines)
Fluspi (whose siblings were Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter?)
Wellbutrin (an oldie, but doesn’t it sound reassuring?)
Nipolept (Nip ‘O what?)
Stazepine (is this answer to ‘what is the hot bogan baby name for 2013?’ Stazza-piiiine! Get back in the car before the Welfare sees ya!!!)

I can understand the desire to regulate the highly competitive psychiatric drug market, but I wonder if Australia’s regulation of this kind of advertising is getting a bit silly. I mean, at a conference I recently went to there was nothing to look at in the “show bag” of conference goodies except for pamphlets about upcoming conferences. I’m not saying that I need tonnes of free stuff to attend conferences, but when you’ve paid $800, surely a pen isn’t asking too much? What kind of ludicrous world are mental health practitioners living in if we can’t even get a (plain) pen at a conference? It’s not that hard to get a pen is it? It’s not like we’re asking for Freudian slippers.