Premedical Students’ Exposure to the Pharmaceutical Industry’s Marketing Practices

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Abstract

Purpose

Physicians’ exposure to pharmaceutical industry marketing raises concerns about their ability to make unbiased, evidence-based prescription decisions. This exposure begins early in medical education. The authors examined the frequency and context of such exposures for students before matriculation to medical school.

Method

The authors distributed two separate but related questionnaires to all 389 students who matriculated at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine between 2007 and 2010. The survey inquired about interactions with the pharmaceutical industry before entering medical school. Descriptive statistics and Wilcoxon rank sum tests were used to analyze data.

Results

Across four years, 282 (72.5%) students responded to the first survey; 219 (56.3%) responded to the follow-up survey. The majority of those (62.1%) had interacted with or were exposed to pharmaceutical marketing before medical school. The most common interactions were accepting a pen (50.2%) and attending a sponsored lunch (37.9%), which occurred most commonly while shadowing (33.6% and 42.2%, respectively). The next most common interactions were receiving a small gift (24.7%) and attending a sponsored dinner (20.6%), which occurred most commonly in “other” contexts, such as through family and while working in a medical setting (48.2% and 48.9%, respectively).

Conclusions

The majority of students had interacted with the pharmaceutical industry before medical school. The differences in context indicate that students enter medical school with a heterogeneous set of exposures to pharmaceutical marketing. Medical schools should consider interventions to enhance students’ knowledge of the impact of pharmaceutical marketing on physicians’ prescribing practices.

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