Background: Personalized pharmaceutical marketing to physicians, including the provision of gifts and sponsorship of educational and recreational activities, raises ethical issues. We sought to determine the degree to which physicians regarded common pharmaceutical marketing activities as ethically problematic, and to compare the views of experienced physicians and physicians-in-training.
Methods: A questionnaire that included 18 scenarios portraying interactions between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry was distributed to residents and faculty members at a US medical school.
Results: Most marketing activities were not thought to pose major ethical problems. Respondents tended to make distinctions about the ethical appropriateness of gifts on the basis of the monetary value and type of gift. Some respondents' views would be in violation of recent professional guidelines that address interactions between physicians and pharmaceutical companies. However, some respondents were troubled by activities that are permitted by professional guidelines. The responses of residents and faculty physicians were similar.
Conclusions: Despite the recent publicity about ethical problems in relationships between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry, inexperienced and experienced physicians at a single institution continue to have a rather permissive view about a variety of marketing activities.