Where Have All The Free Pens Gone?


courtesy of flickr user titanium studio (creative commons)

From the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, Toronto, Canada:

Neurologists: They are smart, organized, and NOT high maintenance, based on what I’ve seen here at the AAN annual meeting.

I have certainly noticed the lack of freebies in the exhibit halls over the last couple of years, mostly owing to Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) 2009 rule prohibiting noneducational gifts for physicians, from simpler or nonexistent free bags to the absence of goodies like beach towels, hats, T-shirts, and those little squishy toys. But pens?

Doctors have noticed, too. While stuck on a crowded escalator, I overheard one of the doctors attending the meeting comment to her colleague: “You can’t get so much as a ChapStick at meetings now. All I want is a ChapStick and a free pen.” This struck me as funny (I’m not sure why), but who doesn’t want a free pen? That doesn’t seem to be asking too much.

I made a brief, unscientific study of the exhibit hall, and even free pens were remarkably hard to come by. It took me a few minutes of walking around before I could locate one. I was unable to determine an association between the presence of pens and the few exhibitors who had coffee and biscotti. In addition, the type of exhibitor (drug company, organization, products/services for physicians) did not appear to have an impact on the presence of pens.

My study findings suggest that there are pens to be found in exhibit halls these days, but it takes some work. As for the ChapStick, try a dermatology meeting.

–Heidi Splete (on twitter @hsplete)

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Filed under Dermatology, IMNG, Neurology and Neurological Surgery

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