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Medical students at risk for influence from pharmaceutical companies' marketing efforts

Third-year medical students receive on average one gift or attend one activity sponsored by a pharmaceutical company per week, and most believe that sponsored educational events are likely to be biased, according to an article in the September 7 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on medical education.

Medical students are entering an environment with progressively fewer boundaries between medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, which spends $12 billion to $18 billion annually marketing to physicians (including residents), according to background information in the article. This includes 60 million visits annually by pharmaceutical representatives and most of the $1.54 billion spent annually on continuing medical education. Drug companyphysician interaction presents information favoring the sponsor's product and increases the likelihood of prescribing that product. Prescribing may be inconsistent with evidence-based guidelines and may reflect the presence of drug samples or patient demand due to direct-to-consumer advertising, even if a drug was not the physician's first choice. While exposure to and attitudes about drug company interactions among residents have been studied extensively, relatively little is known about relationships between drug companies and medical students.

Frederick S. Sierles, M.D., of the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, North Chicago, Ill., and colleagues measured the frequency of medical students' exposure to drug company gifts, students' attitudes about gifts, and correlates of these frequencies and attitudes. In 2003 the researchers distributed a 64-item anonymous survey to 1,143 third-year students at 8 U.S. medical schools, exploring their exposure and response to drug company interactions. The schools' characteristics included a wide spectrum of ownership types, National Institutes of Health funding, and geographic locations. In 2005, the researchers conducted a national survey of student aff
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Contact: Kathleen Peterson
847-578-8344
JAMA and Archives Journals
6-Sep-2005


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