The researchers found a compelling need for medical residency training programs to include information about drug company marketing techniques and how physician interactions with sales representatives can affect what medications they prescribe.
"Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on marketing with the goal of changing doctors' behaviors and there's good data that shows it works," said Raquel Watkins, M.D., lead researcher and assistant professor of internal medicine. "To be informed decision-makers, physicians need to be aware of this potential conflict of interest."
Watkins and colleagues conducted surveys about the need for resident training on these issues and developed a six-hour curriculum for internal medicine residents at Wake Forest Baptist.
Through a review of published manuscripts in this field, the researchers found that only 25 percent of internal medicine residency programs in the United States have formal instruction on how to interact with drug company sales representatives. The researchers conducted a survey of 200 internal medicine faculty members and residents that found low levels of knowledge about drug company marketing techniques and professional guidelines on interacting with sales representatives.
For example, the number of residents who were familiar with statements from professional organizations and research on physician-pharmaceutical industry interactions ranged from only 1 percent to 9 percent. The 88 residents surveyed had trained at 46 different medical schools, suggesting that medical schools should consider incorporating a similar curriculum, said Watkins.