Missing the old pharma swag? Take a trip down memory lane

Nexium Swiss army knife--Courtesy of AstraZeneca

Branded trinkets evoke memories of pharma marketing days past, when reps carried bags full of gifts to promote their products. Now, tougher policies have most tchotchkes collecting dust. The only place to find the more spectacular pharma swag is on memory lane.

The Atlantic gathered some prime examples for triggering sales rep nostalgia. Remember when doctors wrote prescriptions on Lipitor clipboards, and drank coffee from a Klonopin mug? Seeing branded products in doctors' offices was commonplace, and no one thought twice if they stumbled across a Viagra clock on the wall or branded trinkets in the waiting room.

Then, a 2006 JAMA study showed that even cheap gifts could influence physician prescribing decisions, and other research turned up similar results. In 2008, the pharma industry agreed to a moratorium on branded trinkets, but the policy left a loophole for perks such as company-sponsored meals, drug samples and "educational" gifts valued at less than $100.

A few years later, the Physicians Payments Sunshine Act put more even more pressure on pharma-doc interactions, requiring companies to record payments to doctors, including those for speaking fees, consulting arrangements and free food. Massachusetts doctors, who faced the most stringent gifts ban, were even warned away from the free coffee at certain medical meetings.

So now, we commemorate some of the best pharma swag that has passed its expiration date. In the 1990s, there was the OxyContin "Swing in the right direction with OxyContin" CD featuring an elderly couple dancing on a patch of green grass. OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma did not stop there, rolling out a pedometer with "A step in the right direction" printed underneath the brand name, and a floppy beach hat perfect for days by the seaside.

Then there were rhinestone-studded "Botox" T-shirts and Nexium Swiss army knives, not to mention Ambien plush dolls. No longer handed out by reps, but if you're really nostalgic, you can find many of them on eBay.

What are some of your favorite branded freebies from pharma days of old? Feel free to drop us a line--or a photo--of outdated trinkets or collectibles.

- read The Atlantic article