One squillion gimme pens from Big Pharma

From Reddit, hxstr's photo of "10 years worth of Pharma Rep's free pens, very few duplicates." The comments on the photo contain a blazing fight over its provenance, though it may be the personal collection of a Cedars-Sinai cardiologist.

Reddit, I present to you: 10 years worth of Pharma Rep's free pens, very few duplicates [OC] (


  1. Woah. This is incredible.  The University of California system banned all pharma giveaways about 6 years ago, so I’m way behind (thankfully).

  2. Considering how few practical options there are (capped vs retractable, button vs twist, rollerball vs ballpoint vs felt-tip vs fountain nib, ink color[s], and… that’s about it), I am struck by how promotional pen design must actually be a full-time career for a couple of people.  I shouldn’t be too surprised, as automotive design has employed many thousands of people over the last century on many thousands of varied designs which are all simply wheeled boxes to take people and stuff from hither to yon.

    Still, I must take a moment to ponder the existential satisfaction of the professional designer of promotional pens.  Does this person consider any particular example a personal masterpiece?  Are there specimens that the designer feels were more trouble than they were worth?  Were there early journeyman efforts that the master now regards with horrified shame when he or she spots them chained to the sign-in clipboard at the dentist’s office?

    1. You don’t get offers from Amsterdam, do you? First 200 pens free! You put in your company name and related info and pick a design from a template that was made in the early 1990s.

      Two weeks after the Real Estate Board or whoever publishes their list of recent licensees, a pen with your name on it arrives in the mail. And then you get junk mail for the rest of your life.

  3. All that plastic, for what? How many pharma pens ended up in the ocean, breaking down in to teeny tiny pieces eaten by fish, eaten by bigger fish, that landed on the plates of pharma executives?

  4. If it was only pens, it would be one thing. But big pharma gives away a lot more than that. Pizza for the whole office. Weekend conference getaways for docs. Billions of dollars per year to influence and control the market. This while we languish for new antibiotics to combat super bugs. You see, antibiotics are not that profitable. You only take them for a couple of weeks max. So there’s no interest in providing new ones.  When the provision of health care, including drugs and treatments, is reduced to a profit-driven business model… all but the shareholders suffer. 

  5. I don’t think they’re gifts, but my father takes a pharmaceutical pen every time he pays a co-pay.

    1.  My late friend was a Pharmacist, she kept me well-supplied with all manner of pens, pads, and such. The sheer volume of stuff the reps unload is staggering. Although, most of the pens were good quality, they wrote very nicely, I miss having them.

  6. Delivered by absolutely gorgeous fawning Big Pharma Reps, who also shower their targets with free food gifts, and who knows what else? Birthday Cake for the Doc’s birthday, plenty of free drug samples etc. I wonder if their objectivity is not just clouded, but occluded! (I was at my former doctor, the receptionist gave us Big Pharma sweets galore for the extra long wait one particular day. For here, AND to go!)

  7. I worked in a pharmacy for a number of years a while back and had my own pseudo collection (I had like 4 dozen – nothing like the pic). There are people who are into these collections. I have no idea why. But for a while, a certain metal viagra pen was the white whale. I saw them for sale on ebay. (I just checked, people still collect them).

    I’ve never met anyone who actually buys the pens. Rather, people just accumulated them from drug reps and then one-upped each other. How many pens do you have? 60? Pfff. I have 100. 100? I have 150. And so on. Naturally, the older the pharmacist or pharm tech, the more pens they had.

  8. I loved Pharm Rep day at the office I interned at.  Free lunch, woohoo.  But the doctor took all those samples, and then called his uninsured patients to come get some free meds.  At least we did good with all that “wasted money”.

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