By Demon Doctor Jun. 30, 2018
Two months ago, the young doctor was catching whatever little sleep he could on the floor of a hospital supply room (it was cleaner than the beds). Now he has a peon, with his own extension number. Life has turned a corner, and medical representatives are trying to bribe him with pens.
Suresh Narayan is a doctor, working as a senior resident in medicine at one of the premier super-specialty hospitals in the capital. The sleepless nights and overworked days of slaving in a government hospital are now behind him. In his current job, he earns nearly double of what he was paid before.
The first day at work, a flunkey ushers him into a swank office room with his name on the door. There’s even a washbasin inside with some hand towels neatly folded on the side. Suresh is very impressed, and tries hard not to show it.
“You need anything sir, just call for me. My extension number is 2012,” the flunkey departs, after giving him a servile bow.
Two months ago, Suresh was catching whatever little sleep he could on the floor of a hospital supply room (it was cleaner than the beds). Now he has a peon, with his own extension number. A wave of unreality washes over him and he has the feeling that he’s living another person’s life.
Seeing patients in the outpatient setting brings back the familiarity of routine. He’s grateful for them, even the hypochondriacs, and feels an absurd urge to shake their hands.
As the day wears on, he starts feeling euphoric from the heady rush of privilege. A dull-eyed supplicant pokes his head into the room while he is fooling around on the computer. “Bugger off, you,” Suresh snarls at him in the vernacular. The head disappears. This is power.
A lady with a chronic complaint of abdominal pain is seen next. Her three children stare constantly at Suresh. They all seem to be breathing through their mouths. While he’s occupied with examining their mother, a member of the brood casually breaks the desk lamp.
“Pinky! Arré, what a terrible child she is. Doctor saab will stick a big fat needle in your arm if you don’t behave. I don’t know what to do with her.”
The father drags the wailing culprit out, the other children giggle at seeing her exiled. Justice has been served, let order be restored in the court.
A few weeks later, his confidence and newfound enthusiasm in the job burgeoning, Suresh is approached for the first time by representatives of the pharmaceutical companies, known in the business as MRs.
“Sir, we need your enthusiastic support for our product. It is a very good molecule, excellent bioavailability and very reasonably priced. You must be knowing that it is very helpful in patients with…,” Suresh zones out and starts playing with the pen the MR has gifted him. A doctor can never have too many pens.
A polite cough brings his attention back to the MR. She is pretty; Big Pharma sends hundreds like her to male doctors as part of a calculated move to influence prescriptions. He decides to snub her. He’s infuriated that they’ve automatically assumed he’s that shallow.
“I’m not aware of any studies showing your drug to be of benefit to patients with this disorder. What was the design of your research that led you to this conclusion? Show me the hard data.”
She is educated in sales and marketing, not science, a fact that he’s well aware of. She stammers and then pleadingly looks to her superior for deliverance.
“Sir, perhaps we can talk about incentives. As you may know, our marketing department has a very nice budget set aside for this,” the senior MR jumps in. His voice is suave, urbane. He leans in conspiratorially, and emphasises incentives twice. His eyebrows waggle suggestively. (Is this guy for real, Suresh thinks.) He smells of sweat and expensive aftershave.
She is pretty; Big Pharma sends hundreds like her to male doctors as part of a calculated move to influence prescriptions. He decides to snub her. He’s infuriated that they’ve automatically assumed he’s that shallow.
Suresh is about to throw the sleazeball out, but then checks himself. He wonders if he’s being naive, or worse, if he’s acting without thought. His communist grandparents have bred into him distaste for money, a viewpoint that he has since realised is ludicrous and self-destructive. You’re going to have to prescribe this medicine at some point, he argues with himself, so what does it matter if it’s this brand or some other? What harm if you make some cash off it?
Sensing weakness, the suit smiles and slides his business card over. “Anytime you need some more info on this sir, please feel free to call me. We’re looking forward to working with you.”
Suresh picks the card up, feeling embarrassed for his earlier self-righteous anger. “Pens”, he suddenly says.
“Bring me more pens, nice ones. These days I feel like I’m always running out. We can talk about your brand after that.”
The suits are puzzled, he’s acting bizarre. The senior MR shrugs, agrees, and takes his leave after flashing another dazzling smile. He’s left alone in his office, feeling a mix of embarrassment and regret.
Other days will bring other challenges.
(To be continued…)