Background: Residents frequently interact with pharmaceutical representatives during their training. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of policies restricting or regulating the interactions of pharmaceutical representatives with family medicine residents.
Methods: A descriptive, cross-sectional survey was sent to all 386 accredited family practice residency programs. Programs were surveyed for the presence of restrictions or policies regarding the following circumstances and activities through which pharmaceutical representative-resident interactions could occur: (1) contact during working hours, (2) clinic drug samples, (3) personal samples for residents, (4) displays, (5) distribution of literature, (6) gifts and outings, and (7) group presentations.
Results: Overall, residency programs tended to allow most of these activities and had only informal guidelines regarding pharmaceutical representative interaction. Written policies were present in 58% of the programs. Prohibitions of some type were present in 41% of the programs. A higher prevalence of written policies was noted in military programs, larger programs, and programs located in hospitals with only family practice residents.
Conclusions: There are wide variations among family practice residency programs regarding the regulation of pharmaceutical representative-resident interactions. In view of the educational mission of residency training programs and the recent concern over the ethics of the relationship between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry, it would be prudent for all residencies to develop written policies addressing the activities of pharmaceutical representatives in training sites.