Who’s Paying For Lunch?

Every day, doctor’s lunch rooms around the world are filled with the aroma of various delightful foods. From pastries to sandwiches, to your favourite Thai takeaway – it’s all on offer.

But who is offering, and what exactly? 

The lunches I am referring to are those sponsored, paid for or conducted by pharmaceutical companies.

It has become common practice for pharmaceutical companies to sponsor breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even coffee breaks with a small to large sprinkling of their own input as to the latest medical therapies and evidence supporting their products.

Many people welcome these seeming donations of food with open arms, and mouths, as no doubt they have grumbling bellies after being on ward rounds for 5 hours, seeing a long list of patients or not having time to make breakfast let alone lunch in the morning.

However, in truth, what effect does attending these lunches and consuming this food have? 

Besides filling the evident digestive hole, the advertising and advice supplied by pharmaceutical representatives during these interchanges has a very desired and deliberate effect on our practice, from their perspective.  Some state that accepting food from pharmaceutical companies does not affect them, and that they use discernment in how they interpret the information and evidence given to them.

This may well be possible, but there is strong evidence to suggest that the time spent eating noodles from a box and listening to someone talk about the latest brand of blood pressure medication does have an effect.

A systematic review published in 2010 explored the relationship between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians’ prescribing.  The outcomes from this review showed information provided directly by pharmaceutical companies had associations with higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality.

This article can be found here:


So, we can stay in denial that we may indeed be contributing to lower quality medicine by accepting the offer of free coffee or breakfast meeting bagels, or we can look to address the problem that is allowing this opening to be there in the first place. 

Essentially we need to get better at taking care of ourselves. It may sound overly simplistic, but if we had breakfast, enough sleep or the where-with-all to prepare our own lunches, then perhaps we would be less vulnerable to the enticement offered by free food and beverages. Having said this in all its simplicity, it is not always as easy as snapping our fingers, changing our routine and whipping up our own lunch on a regular basis if this has never been the case before.

What we can do is start to take simple steps, and finding where our own vulnerabilities lie that stop us from nourishing ourselves in the way we otherwise could. For some it is late nights, so the free coffee is more than enough enticement. Some late nights are obviously outside of our control, but others can be a leftover from years of ‘late night studying’…or partying…depending on how we choose to roll. This pattern does need looking at, especially if we are chronically exhausted.

For others preparing lunch the night before is barely on the radar, as dinner only just manages to get a look in. This lack of self-support is often a marker of the system we have come through, and the reflections that are all around us which rarely show a level of deep self-care and vitality.

                                         How many truly vital doctors do you know? 

This is itself is exposing and indicting of the system we work in, and have been educated by.

In order to ‘seal the door where evil dwells’, so to speak – specifically in relation to our evident penchant for free food and caffeinated beverages, we need to look at and work on ways to better support ourselves within a profession and now industry that does not support us, as people, at its very core.

By working on a the simple factors we can, it is amazing the difference that can be made. It is possible for us to take better care of ourselves as doctors, and it is important we do so for many reasons – the above listed included. When we allow compromise in our relationship with ourselves, we allow compromise in the quality of all that we do too. Providing quality in care is our responsibility, and it is our responsibility thus, not only to ourselves but to those all around us, that we take deep care for ourselves.

In a system where this level of care has long been forgotten – or placed by the wayside, a revolution is required, and this starts with each of us.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Sandra Williamson says:

    It’s is quite a revelation to discover the ways we ‘treat’ our own bodies. Our own unique vehicle that we have with us every split micro-second of our entire lives. To consider all it does with us and for us and it’s amazing precession in its formation, to even contemplate we harm it in any way is really mind boggling. To take a few moments a day to check in and see how our loving, constant partner for life is doesn’t seem an unreasonable choice, to go further and consider ourselves with honesty, and care seems absolutely reasonable. Once these feel as natural as it is it’s quite a simple choice to feeling the deep honouring and cherishing we truly deserve. The trick for me has been not ‘waiting’ for something outside of me or an illness to instigate my own initiating of loving the body I am.


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