Doctoring sales – IELTS Academic Reading Passage

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-13 which are based on the Reading Passage below.

Questions 1-7:
The Reading Passage has seven paragraphs, A-G.
Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below.
Write the correct number, i-x, in boxes 1-7 on your answer sheet.

List of Headings
i  Nat all doctors are persuaded
ii  Choosing the best offers
iii  Who is responsible for the increase in promotions?
iv  Fighting the drug companies
v  An example of what doctors expect from drug companies
vi  Gifts include financial incentives
vii  Research shows that promotion works
viii  The high costs of research
ix  The positive side of drugs promotion
x  Who really pays for doctors’ free gifts?

1.  Paragraph  A
Paragraph  B
Paragraph  C
Paragraph  D
Paragraph  E
Paragraph  F
Paragraph  G

Doctoring sales

Pharmaceuticals is one of the most profitable industries in
North America. But do the drugs industry’s sales and
marketing strategies go too far?

A.  A few months ago Kim Schaefer, sales representative of a minor global pharmaceutical company, walked into a medical center in New York to bring information and free samples of her company’s latest products. That day she was lucky – a doctor was available to see her. ‘The last rep offered me a trip to Florida. What do you have?’ the physician asked. He was only half joking.

B.  What was on offer that day was a pair of tickets for a New York musical. But on any given day what Schaefer can offer is typical for today’s drugs rep – a car trunk full of promotional gifts and gadgets, a budget that could buy lunches and dinners for a small county hundreds of free drug samples and the freedom to give a physician $200 to prescribe her new product to the next six patients who fit the drug’s profile. And she also has a few $ 1,000 honoraria to offer in exchange for doctors’ attendance at her company’s next educational lecture.

C.  Selling Pharmaceuticals is a daily exercise in ethical judgment. Salespeople like Schaefer walk the line between the common practice of buying a prospect’s time with a free meal, and bribing doctors to prescribe their drugs. They work in an industry highly criticized for its sales and marketing practices, but find themselves in the middle of the age-old chicken-or-egg question – businesses won’t use strategies that don’t work, so are doctors to blame for the escalating extravagance of pharmaceutical marketing? Or is it the industry’s responsibility to decide the boundaries?

D.  The explosion in the sheer number of salespeople in the Reid- and the amount of funding used to promote their causes- forces close examination of the pressures, influences and relationships between drug reps and doctors. Salespeople provide much-needed information and education to physicians. In many cases the glossy brochures, article reprints and prescriptions they deliver are primary sources of drug education for healthcare givers. vVith the huge investment the industry has placed in face-to-face selling, sales people have essentially become specialists in one drug or group of drugs – a tremendous advantage in getting the attention of busy doctors in need of quick information.

E.  But the sales push rarely stops in the office. The flashy brochures and pamphlets left by the sales reps are often followed up with meals at expensive restaurants, meetings in warm and sunny places, and an inundation of promotional gadgets. Rarely do patients watch a doctor write with a pen that isn’t emblazoned with a drug’s name, or see a nurse use a tablet not bearing a pharmaceutical company’s logo. Millions of dollars are spent by pharmaceutical companies on promotional products like coffee mugs, shirts, umbrellas, and golf balls. Money well spent? It’s hard to tell. I’ve been the recipient of golf balls from one company and I use them, but it doesn’t make me prescribe their medicine,’ says one doctor.’ I tend to think I’m not influenced by what they give me.’

F.  Free samples of new and expensive drugs might be the single most effective way of getting doctors and patients to become loyal to a product. Salespeople hand out hundreds of dollars’ worth of samples each week-$7.2 billion worth of them in one year. Though few comprehensive studies have been conducted, one by the University of Washington investigated how drug sample availability affected what physicians prescribe. A total of 131 doctors self-reported their prescribing patterns-the conclusion was that the availability of samples led them to dispense and prescribe drugs that differed from their preferred drug choice.

G.  The bottom line is that pharmaceutical companies as a whole invest more in marketing than they do in research and development. And patients are the ones who pay-in the form of sky-rocketing prescription prices for every pen that’s handed out, every free theatre ticket, and every steak dinner eaten. In the end, the fact remains that pharmaceutical companies have every right to make a profit and will continue to find new ways to increase sales. But as the medical world continues to grapple with what’s acceptable and what’s not, it is clear that companies must continue to be heavily scrutinized for their sales and marketing strategies.

Questions 8-13:
Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer in the Reading Passage?

In boxes 8-13 on your answer sheet, write

    YES    if the statement agrees with the views of the writer
    NO    if the statement contradicts the views of the writer
    NOT GIVEN  if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks

8. Sales representatives like Kim Schaefer work to a very limited budget.
9. Kim Schaefer’s marketing technique may be open to criticism on moral grounds.
10. The information provided by drug companies is of little use to doctors.
11. Evidence of drug promotion is clearly visible in the healthcare environment.
12. The drug companies may give free drug samples to patients without doctors’ prescriptions
13. It is legitimate for drug companies to make money.

1. v
2. vi
3. iii
4. ix
5. i
6. vii
7. x
8. NO
9. YES
10. NO
11. YES
13. YES