What do medical students think about pharmaceutical promotion?

David Carmody & Peter Mansfield

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

David Carmody
Sixth Year Medicine/Arts (Undergraduate)
University of Melbourne

Dr. Peter R. Mansfield
General Practitioner
Visiting Research Fellow, General Practice, University of Adelaide

David is an active member of the student group ‘Pharma Phacts’ which aims to educate medical students about the effects of pharmaceutical promotion.

Peter is a General Practitioner in Willunga, South Australia and the Founder and current director of ‘Healthy Skepticism Inc.’, an international non-profit group aiming to improve health by reducing harm from misleading health information.


Aim: The aim of this review was to produce an overview of surveys of medical students’ exposure to and attitudes towards pharmaceutical promotion. Methods: PubMed was searched for studies featuring surveys of medical students regarding their interactions with pharmaceutical promotion and tabulated the findings for survey questions relating to the main themes. Results: Students have significant exposure to promotion, and they generally view receiving gifts as acceptable, but do regard some gifts as more appropriate than others. Most students think pharmaceutical sales representative (PSR) presentations are biased but still of educational value and should not be banned. Most students do not believe promotion will affect their prescribing behaviours. A large majority of students want more education in their curricula on how to interact with PSRs. Conclusions: Many medical students think that pharmaceutical promotion is biased and feel underprepared for interactions with the pharmaceutical industry. Despite this, they accept exposure to pharmaceutical promotion believing that it will not influence them. There is scope for improved education in medical schools about this issue.