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Topic: Bribes, Free Gifts to Drum Up Business

Michael Reuben from Manchester, England wrote:
Dear Rabbi,

Is it permissible for a doctor to accept free gifts from a drug company? As a little background, many drug companies offer gifts - pens, diaries, clocks, etc.- to doctors in order to advertise their products. This obviously influences (to some extent) the choice of prescription and I would like to know whether or not this constitutes a bribe. Would it be different for a medical student (who receives gifts but cannot prescribe medication)?

Dear Michael Reuben,

I asked your question to Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Auerbach, shlita. He cited the Talmud (Bava Batra 21b) which states that a store owner may hand out sweets and nuts to drum up business. He said that this applies to the drug companies as well.

The reason that these gifts are not considered bribes, Rabbi Auerbach explained, is that the pharmaceutical companies do not intend the doctors to prescribe medicine that is inappropriate or unnecessary. They are merely trying to influence doctors to prescribe their products as opposed to similar products manufactured by competing pharmaceutical companies.

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