Docs like pharma dinners--with a few caveats

Marketing managers, listen up: what would bring a doctor out for a pharma-sponsored dinner meeting? Info on multiple sclerosis treatment, for one. Updates on new anti-clotting drugs, for another. Pain management, bipolar disorder and reimbursement issues also make the list, according to a survey from Sermo, the social networking site for physicians. But keep it brief--and leave plenty of time for questions.

Speaker programs are popular among most of the survey respondents: almost three-fourths attend dinner meetings at medical conferences, while 62% participate in traditional programs, Sermo found. Still, 27% actually avoid speaker programs because of the industry's transparency push; several drugmakers are now reporting all payments to doctors, including free meals.

Doctors who responded to the survey said they enjoy Q-and-A sessions and "spirited discussions" that can follow speakers' formal presentations. One pediatrician also enjoyed playing "stump the speaker," saying "I like to challenge the claims of the drug companies and force the speaker to send me more information when I don't think we are getting the whole story." Time is also of the essence: "I like a good speaker who gets right to the subject at hand and can say it in no more than 45-60 minutes," one cardiologist said. "I can say that I walk away with at least one new fact" after every meeting, one pleased neurologist said.

In fact, almost one-quarter of doctors said they'd like to get drug information from more dinner meetings. But the majority would like other sources, too: 21% said they'd like to receive peer-reviewed journal articles; 20% would like to view an online presentation rather than a live speech; and 14% want to get their pharma fix from online e-detailing.

- get the Sermo survey results