Recently a practitioner lamented that because of her clinic location she didn’t see company reps very often & felt this was a barrier to her staying current with her clinical knowledge.  Of course, I had to beg to differ.

We’re quick to judge the medical profession for their reliance on commercial sources of CPD, overwhelmingly provided of course by the ‘drug reps’ but it seems we’re less fazed or concerned about ourselves being equally reliant, unduly influenced and misguided (might I add) by the people employed by the CAM manufacturers expressly to encourage us to sell more of their products! How does that make sense? 

I go back to my very repetitive mantra: always be mindful of who delivers you the message/information etc. and what their agenda is.

By promoting their company’s products to us, focusing on the products’ strengths, ignoring or simply not making it a priority to know the limitations or weaknesses of the products or the evidence, ignoring or again simply not making it their business to know when superior products are being produced by competitors or when new evidence comes to light that puts into question their products, reps are only doing what they’re employed to do.  But is it helpful and is it ok?

I know I know…I’m a hard task master…but I’m not suggesting we all close our doors to reps & spend our time doing completely independent learning, reading every scientific article on every herb & nutrient firsthand. That’s completely unrealistic and sounds a tad boring! However, I do think in the rep-practitioner relationship we should never forget that WE ARE THE CUSTOMER and they need to work for our custom.  Therefore essentially, we should be driving the agenda – what do we want out of these interactions?

You might like some of the reps that visit you for lots of different reasons, because they’re lovely people or because they do nice things for you with various freebies etc. but I think a truly good rep, as in someone who is really going to benefit your practice, improve your clinical outcomes and ultimately help you become a better practitioner needs to be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Be a great resource – good reps are able to provide you with relevant independent full text articles to support the claims they’re making about the products, they’re able to answer any additional detailed questions you have about the manufacturing process & provide evidence to support this as well as any other questions you might have.
  • Good scientific and/or clinical understandingdoes your rep know their stuff beyond the spiel? If you dig a little deeper with your questions – do they flourish or do they thrive?  Are they still ensuring that they get their own CPD from a variety of sources – if they’re going to be of use to you then they’d better ensure that their knowledge is up to date & comes from sources well beyond their own company!
  • Independent & Critical thinking – I don’t believe there’s any company whose range is 100% full of perfect products which are best in the market in every category….but of course, that’s what manufacturer’s would love us to believe & that’s likely to be what many reps attempt to convey. A great rep is one that knows the company’s strengths and can also identify their weaknesses – they can present a balanced view of the company’s products rather than the crude ‘’sell sell sell” approach.  While company’s fear this will diminish them in the eyes of practitioners it has the opposite effect – creating credibility, integrity & a sense of goodwill

If there’s one take home message here it’s that reps can potentially offer a great service to us (and remember they are in service to us!)  but if instead they’re simply a mouthpiece for the company, parroting the marketing claims of the manufacturer you could read the brochure/product info & perhaps save yourself some time & bias 🙂


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