Medical practitioners and the pharmaceutical industry serve interests that sometimes overlap and sometimes conflict. There is strong evidence that associations between industry and doctors influence the behaviour of the latter in relation to both clinical decision making and the conduct of research. In view of the risk of compromising relationships with patients and the integrity of the research process, doctors must exercise care in their dealings with industry. The basic principles underlying the conduct of doctors with respect to pharmaceutical companies should be openness and transparency. Clearly articulated procedures should be developed to deal with specific issues such as travel subsidies, receipt of gifts, sponsorship of conferences and continuing education activities, and dualities of interest arising in clinical and research settings.