Purpose: To determine the sources of funding for doctors attending conferences and meetings and the doctors' perception on whether their involvement with the pharmaceutical industry created a conflict of interest or bias in their drug selection.
Method: A postal questionnaire was distributed to 622 hospital doctors and 515 general practitioners (GPs) working in the Edinburgh area in Scotland, UK.
Results: The pharmaceutical industry funded approximately half of the meetings and conferences attended by doctors. Less than 20% of the doctors funded themselves. One-third of the meetings would not have been attended if funding from the industry had not been available. Hospital doctors and GPs had similar views on conflict of interest and bias. A minority of doctors (40%) thought that industry involvement created a conflict of interest but the majority of doctors (86%) thought that it did not create a bias in their own drug selection.
Conclusions: If continuing medical education (CME) for doctors is going to rely on pharmaceutical industry funding in the future, then we need more explicit codes of conduct. It is of concern that while many doctors recognise the potential for the industry to influence their prescribing habits, few recognise that they themselves are susceptible.