Attitudes of Preclinical and Clinical Medical Students Toward Interactions with the Pharmaceutical Industry

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Abstract

Purpose

Medical school is a critical time for physicians in training to learn the professional norms of interacting with the pharmaceutical industry, yet little is known about how students’ attitudes vary during the course of training. This study sought to determine students’ opinions about pharmaceutical industry interactions with medical students and whether these opinions differ between preclinical and clinical students.

Method

The authors surveyed medical students at Harvard Medical School (HMS) from November 2003 through January 2004 using a six-question survey. The authors then analyzed how responses differed among the classes.

Results

Out of 723 questionnaires, 418 were returned—an overall response rate of 58%. A total of 107 (26%) students believed that it is appropriate for medical students to accept gifts from pharmaceutical companies, and 76 (18%) agreed that the medical school curriculum should include events sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. Many students—253 (61%)—reported that they do not feel adequately educated about pharmaceutical industry–medical professionals’ interactions. Preclinical and clinical students had similar opinions for the majority of their responses. Finally, students who reported feeling better educated about pharmaceutical industry interactions tended to be less skeptical of the industry and more likely to view interactions with the industry as appropriate.

Conclusions

Students’ opinions about interactions with the pharmaceutical industry were similar between preclinical and clinical students, suggesting that the current medical school experience may have limited impact on students’ views about interactions with the pharmaceutical industry.

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