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Incentive gifts to health professionals: conditioning begins at university

Medical students, regrettably, grow accustomed to accepting gifts from pharmaceutical companies.

A survey carried out in several medical faculties in the United States reveals that more than 50% of third-year students have already received 7 types of gift from pharmaceutical companies: a lunch, a small item, a brochure, a snack, a free conference, a book, a dinner. The majority (80%) of the respondents considered it "acceptable" to be offered gifts or free meals. But paradoxically, most of the students (67%) felt that events sponsored by pharmaceutical companies were often biased.

69% of the students stated that their prescriptions would not be influenced by these gifts, but fewer (58%) thought that their fellow students would not be influenced.

Students from universities which shun contact with pharmaceutical companies were more critical, as were those who had not been invited by a faculty doctor to accept a gift.

This study bears out the findings of similar studies, showing that too many health professionals have an ambivalent attitude towards pharmaceutical companies: they accept gifts even though they know they are incentives; they deny being influenced themselves, but recognise that their colleagues are.

It is time for all health professionals and medical students to say "no thank you" to all incentive gifts from pharmaceutical companies.

©Prescrire March 2006

Source: ""Cadeaux" des firmes : le conditionnement dès l'université" Rev Prescrire 2006 ; 26 (270) : 213-214.

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