Long live the Viagra drug reps

I was at a meeting the other night, and afterwards was having a beer with a few colleagues when we were joined by the sponsoring drug rep.

We GPs are an easy-going folk, so he settled handily into the company, bought a round, generally contributed to the conversation, told a joke or two. But out of the corner of my eye, I caught a quickly-eclipsed expression on his face. It looked like boredom to me, and it said: 'This is my job, this is work to me, I am paid to be here and be nice to these guys, when we are finished here I can go home and then go out for a beer with people I actually like being with.'

I think we all understand their motivation, so even though most of them are decent people just doing their job, we are always suspicious of their intentions.

Reps are usually welcome though, because anything is better than actually seeing patients, but the only reps we are ever truly glad to see are the reps for Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, because they may bring with them some samples.

Other reps who offer samples are usually dismissed (unless they are good-looking), but Viagra, Cialis and Levitra are horses of a different colour.

These samples are not for my own use, you understand. I have some patients who are impecunious and yet they need sex as much as the rest of us; everyone deserves a bit of loving.

So old Joe was being rather fatalistic, I thought. He'd been married 40 years, there was snow on the roof and no fire in the grate, and his wedding anniversary was coming up.

'These tablets will do the job, I promise you,' I said earnestly (if insincerely), adding all the placebo value I could, but I could see he was still doubtful.

Because I am sometimes a good doctor, I then tried some positive reinforcement and encouragement by lying through my teeth; sometimes I think I care too much.

'You are a lucky man,' I said. 'When you go home tonight, romance will be in the air. Mary will be waiting upstairs with soft lights, scented candles, body oil and a black negligee.'

'Aye,' he said sourly, 'black wi' dirt.'

And they make such a fuss of Romeo and Juliet, I thought.

- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at GPcolumnists@haynet.com.

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