NEW YORK (Reuters) - Come next year, doctors may start to see a problem they've yet to experience -- a pen shortage.

New guidelines released on Thursday by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) prohibit drug makers from giving out pens, as well as other "non-educational" items such as mugs, to healthcare providers and their staffs.

As part of its revised marketing code, the pharmaceutical trade organization determined that such items, which are typically adorned with a company or product logo, may foster misperceptions that these interactions with healthcare professionals "are not based on informing them about medical and scientific issues."

"It has the look of an unprofessional relationship," said Billy Tauzin, president and chief executive officer of PhRMA, during a media briefing on the revised code. "Removing that look is important."

The PhRMA directives, effective January 1, also bar company sales representatives from taking doctors and healthcare providers out for dinners, although they allow companies to provide meals in doctors' offices in conjunction with informational presentations.

Merck and Co Inc., GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Amgen Inc and AstraZeneca Plc were among the companies issuing press releases in support of the new guidelines, which are voluntary. The last time PhRMA revised its guidelines was in 2002.

A 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that drug makers spend $30 billion a year on marketing drugs, although the study did not specify how much the companies spend on so-called "reminder" objects, like bottles of lotion, clipboards and flashlights.

"Probably too much," said Seamus Fernandez, an analyst with Leerink Swann.

Sigh, just as I might be able to attend more drug rep lunches next year.

Typical timing. Curse you, Murphy.