Factors associated with physicians' reliance on pharmaceutical sales representatives

Acad Med. 2009 Aug;84(8):994-1002. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181ace53a.


Purpose: To examine relationships between pharmaceutical representatives and obstetrician-gynecologists and identify factors associated with self-reported reliance on representatives when making prescribing decisions.

Method: In 2006-2007, questionnaires were mailed to 515 randomly selected physicians in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Collaborative Ambulatory Research Network. Participants were asked about the information sources used when deciding to prescribe a new drug, interactions with sales representatives, views of representatives' value, and guidelines they had read on appropriate industry interactions.

Results: Two hundred fifty-one completed questionnaires (49%) were returned. Seventy-six percent of participants see sales representatives' information as at least somewhat valuable. Twenty-nine percent use representatives often or almost always when deciding whether to prescribe a new drug; 44% use them sometimes. Physicians in private practice are more likely than those in university hospitals to interact with, value, and rely on representatives; community hospital physicians tend to fall in the middle. Gender and age are not associated with industry interaction. Dispensing samples is associated with increased reliance on representatives when making prescribing decisions, beyond what is predicted by a physician's own beliefs about the value of representatives' information. Reading guidelines on physician-industry interaction is not associated with less reliance on representatives after controlling for practice setting.

Conclusions: Physicians' interactions with industry and their familiarity with guidelines vary by practice setting, perhaps because of more restrictive policies in university settings, professional isolation of private practice, or differences in social norms. Prescribing samples may be associated with physicians' use of information from sales representatives more than is merited by the physicians' own beliefs about the value of pharmaceutical representatives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Commerce
  • Decision Making*
  • Drug Industry*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Gynecology
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Marketing of Health Services
  • Middle Aged
  • Obstetrics
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States