Medical Education Community Lacks Proper Training on Physician-Pharmaceutical Company Interactions

Each year, pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on marketing and outreach, and an overwhelming majority of those funds support promoting drugs to physicians and other medical professionals. Studies and literature show that these promotional activities effectively influence doctors some to most of the time, including affecting their prescribing actions and their decisions in stocking their pharmacies.

However, interactions between pharmaceutical companies and physicians often begin before the latter population even finishes medical school. Drug manufacturers sponsor meals and conferences for doctors-in-training, provide them with books and gifts, and even back scientific meetings that they attend. In one study, medical students reported an average of 10 to 11 contacts with pharmaceutical representatives each month. Plus, many medical school program directors allow these interactions to take place by providing opportunities for drug reps to give presentations to and meet with students. At the same time, the majority of physician trainees report being underprepared for such meetings and interactions and not fully aware of the guidelines governing them. According to one study, only about 23 percent of medical residents reported reading such guidelines.

About the Author:
Daniella Zipkin, M.D., researched medical student-pharmaceutical company relationships while working as an Attending Physician in the Department of Internal Medicine at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.