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Guard against drug companies' influence on healthcare professionals, starting with medical students

Teachers and students in the healthcare field have a key role to play in keeping pharmaceutical companies at arm's length, so as not to jeopardise the quality of their training and their practice.

Several studies have shown the influence of pharmaceutical  companies on healthcare professionals' opinions and practice. Most healthcare professionals are unaware of these influences. Studies have shown similar findings among students.

In this area too, the period of initial training is a decisive phase for students' future behaviour as prescribing healthcare professionals. Teachers have a crucial part to play, setting an example by refusing gifts from drug companies and encouraging students to beware of pharmaceuticals companies' marketing ploys.

Some students are conscious of these. Students in France have written papers on the relations between pharmaceutical companies and trainee healthcare professionals. In the USA, one of the major medical students' associations (50,000 members), campaigns for universities to train students to see through and foil the pharmaceuticals industry's marketing techniques, as well as to adopt stringent policies with regard to conflicts of interests and refusing gifts.

This association invites students to sign the “PharmFree” pledge which states: “I am committed to the practice of medicine in the best interests of patients and to the pursuit of an education that is based on the best available evidence, rather than on advertising or promotion. I, therefore, pledge to accept no money, gifts, or hospitality from the pharmaceutical industry; to seek unbiased sources of information and not rely on information disseminated by drug companies; and to avoid conflicts of interest in my medical education and practice.”

An example to be followed in France and elsewhere!

©Prescrire 1 June 2013

"Drug company influence starts at university" Prescrire Int 2013; 22 (139): 165. (Pdf, subscribers only).

Download the full review.
Pdf, subscribers only

See also:

Small gifts: proved to
have an influence, albeit
often unconscious
(December 2011)

Incentive gifts to
health professionals:
conditioning begins
at university
(March 2006)

"Non merci": Prescrire =
no conflicts of interest
(March 2013)