Purpose: To determine the effect of educational interventions on medical students' attitudes toward pharmaceutical industry marketing practices and whether restrictive medical school policies governing medicine-industry interactions are associated with student support for banning such interactions.
Method: Prospective cohort study involving the graduating classes of 2009 (intervention, n=474) and 2010 (control, n=459) at four U.S. medical schools. Intervention students experienced a former pharmaceutical representative's presentation, faculty debate, and a Web-based course. Both groups completed baseline and follow-up attitude surveys about pharmaceutical marketing.
Results: A total of 482 students (51.6%) completed both surveys. In regression analyses, intervention students were more likely than control students to think that physicians are strongly or moderately influenced by pharmaceutical marketing (OR, 2.29; 95% CI, 1.46-3.59) and believed they would be more likely to prescribe a company's drug if they accepted that company's gifts and food (OR, 1.68; 95% CI, 1.12-2.52). Intervention students were more likely to support banning interactions between pharmaceutical representatives and students (OR, 4.82; 95% CI, 3.02-7.68) and with physicians (OR, 6.88; 95% CI, 4.04-11.70). Students from schools with more restrictive policies were more likely to support banning interactions between pharmaceutical representatives and students (OR, 1.99; 95% CI, 1.26-3.16) and with physicians (OR, 3.44; 95% CI, 2.05-5.79).
Conclusions: Education about pharmaceutical marketing practices and more restrictive policies governing medicine-industry interactions seem to increase medical students' skepticism about the appropriateness of such marketing practices and disapproval of pharmaceutical representatives in the learning environment.