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What Do They Do? Interactions Between Village Doctors and Medical Representatives in Chakaria, Bangladesh

Future Health Systems

Hafizur Rahman, M, Agarwal, S, Tuddenham, S, Iqbal, M, Bhuiya, A, and Peters, DH (2014) What do they do? Interactions between village doctors and medical representatives in Chakaria, Bangladesh International Health doi:10.1093/inthealth/ihu077

Informally trained village doctors supply the majority of health care services to the rural poor in many developing countries. This study describes the demographic and socioeconomic differences between medical representatives, hired by pharmaceutical companies to provide their products to health providers, and village doctors in rural Bangladesh, and explores the nature of their interactions. The research team used focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, and a quantitative survey to understand practice perceptions. They found that medical representatives have a higher average per capita monthly expenditure compared to village doctors, and that the former are better educated with 98% having bachelor's degrees whereas 84% of village doctors have twelfth grade education or less. Medical representatives are the principal information source about new medications for the village doctors. Furthermore, incentives offered by medical representatives and credit availability might influence the prescription practices of village doctors. Findings suggests that improvements in the quality of health care delivered to the rural poor in informal provider-based health markets require stricter regulations and educational initiatives for providers and medical representatives.