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J Med Ethics 32:559-563 doi:10.1136/jme.2005.014480
  • Clinical ethics

Interactions of doctors with the pharmaceutical industry

  1. M A Morgan1,
  2. J Dana2,
  3. G Loewenstein2,
  4. S Zinberg1,
  5. J Schulkin1
  1. 1American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Washington, DC, USA
  2. 2Carnegie Mellon University, Social and Decision Sciences, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 M A Morgan
 Research Department, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 409 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA; mmorgan{at}acog.org
  • Received 16 September 2005
  • Accepted 5 January 2006
  • Revised 21 December 2005

Abstract

Objective: To assess the opinions and practice patterns of obstetrician-gynaecologists on acceptance and use of free drug samples and other incentive items from pharmaceutical representatives.

Methods: A questionnaire was mailed in March 2003 to 397 members of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who participate in the Collaborative Ambulatory Research Network.

Results: The response rate was 55%. Most respondents thought it proper to accept drug samples (92%), an informational lunch (77%), an anatomical model (75%) or a well-paid consultantship (53%) from pharmaceutical representatives. A third (33%) of the respondents thought that their own decision to prescribe a drug would probably be influenced by accepting drug samples. Respondents were more likely to think the average doctor’s prescribing would be influenced by acceptance of the items than theirs would be (p<0.002). Respondents who distributed drug samples to patients indicated doing so because of patients’ financial need (94%) and for their convenience (76%) and less so as a result of knowledge of the efficacy of the sample product (63%). A third (34%) of respondents agreed that interactions with industry should be more strictly regulated.

Conclusion: Obstetrician-gynaecologists largely indicated that they would act in accordance with what they think is proper regarding accepting incentive items from pharmaceutical representatives. Although accepting free drug samples was considered to be appropriate more often than any other item, samples were most commonly judged to be influential on prescribing practices. The widely accepted practice of receiving and distributing free drug samples needs to be examined more carefully.

Footnotes

  • Funding: This work was supported in part by a grant from the HRSA-MCHB.

  • Competing interests: None.