Effect of legislative changes in drug promotion on medical students: questionnaire survey

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this follow-up study was to examine whether the legislative changes that took place in Finland in 2004 had an impact on the interactions between pharmaceutical companies and medical students. According to a previous survey, information provided by pharmaceutical companies represented one of the most important sources of information on pharmaceutical products for medical students and students frequently attended promotional events.

METHODS

The authors collected the survey data using questionnaires distributed to medical students in Finland's five medical departments in spring 2005. A total of 1523 students (44% of all medical students in Finland) responded to the questionnaire. Results were compared with the findings of a previous study conducted in 2000.

RESULTS

We found a dramatic drop in how often students attended promotions given by pharmaceutical company representatives (PCRs), with 17% versus 68% of students in the clinical phase of study attending at least twice a month (P < 0.001). Other educational events organised by pharmaceutical companies were attended by 3% versus 22% of clinical students (P < 0.001). In addition, presentations by PCRs and industry-sponsored educational events were not regarded as such important sources of information as they had been earlier and the perceived influence of promotion on future prescribing habits had decreased (12% versus 25% indicated that promotion influences prescribing; P < 0.001). Almost two-thirds of the students indicated that basic medical education should provide them with more efficient tools for critical assessment of the claims made by pharmaceutical marketing departments.

CONCLUSIONS

Legislative reform has decreased the amount of contact between the pharmaceutical industry and medical students and diminished the role of industry-sponsored promotion as a source of information on pharmaceutical products.

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