Contact With Drug Industry Linked to Positive Attitudes

Substantial proportion of medical students believe gifts from drug industry affect prescribing

WEDNESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- The extent of contact that medical students have with the pharmaceutical industry is associated with positive attitudes about marketing, according to a review published online May 24 in PLoS Medicine.

Kirsten E. Austad, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues identified 32 studies regarding the frequency and nature of pharmaceutical industry interactions with medical students, and the role of these interactions on students' attitudes to pharmaceutical policy issues. The studies evaluated approximately 9,850 preclinical and clinical medical students, from 76 medical schools or hospitals.

The investigators found that between 40 and 100 percent of medical students reported some form of interaction with the pharmaceutical industry. Between 13 and 69 percent of students agreed that prescriptions are influenced by gifts from the industry. A correlation between the frequency of contact and positive attitudes about industry interactions was reported in eight studies. Students had a more favorable attitude toward gifts for physicians or medical students than for government officials. Students' opinions seemed to change over time; 53 to 71 percent of clinical students reported that industry-provided promotional information about new drugs had an educational value compared with 29 to 62 percent of preclinical students.

"Undergraduate medical education provides substantial contact with pharmaceutical marketing, and the extent of such contact is associated with positive attitudes about marketing and skepticism about negative implications of these interactions," the authors write.

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