Med Student Exposure to Marketers Affects Prescribing
Written by Editor   
Thursday, June 26, 2014 12:00 AM

Physician trainees who spend more time with pharmaceutical marketing representatives are less likely to make evidence-based prescribing choices.  

The authors say their data add to literature showing that pharmaceutical marketing is linked to prescribing choices that are more likely to favor brand names over generics or nondrug treatment options that have the same or comparable effectiveness.  The study found that a 10-point higher industry relations index was associated with 15% lower odds of prescribing based on evidence. There was also a significant link between the industry relations index and greater odds of choosing to prescribe brand-name drugs.

Use of pharmaceutical representatives as a source for drug information went up by experience, the study found, rising 2-fold from first-year students (7.9%) to residents (20.0%). Reported use of drug company–sponsored educational events nearly tripled from first years, at 6.7%, to residents, at 17.0%. Only 74.7% of residents said they used peer-reviewed journal articles to learn about medications.

Most first-year medical students reported using Google searches (88.9%) and Wikipedia (84.5%) for information about medications, compared with 82.4% and 77.3% for fourth-year medical students, respectively. Residents reported less reliance on Google (74.2%) and Wikipedia (45.2%).

In an accompanying editor's note, Joseph S. Ross, MD, MHS, noted that during the training years, "professional identities are formed, and the 'habits' of clinical practice are begun."  He said there is no educational reason for such interaction with industry representatives in this period and recommends that medical schools and teaching hospitals limit trainees' exposure.