Introduction: Drug promotion has to contribute to a more rational use of drugs. Concerns arise if promotion negatively influences prescribing/dispensing pattern. It is warranted to assess exposure and attitudes to, and acceptance of, drug promotion among pharmacists and physicians.
Methodology: Adopting a randomized, multiple site and cross-sectional survey study, questionnaires (n = 250) were completed by physicians and pharmacists to investigate the exposure, acceptance or skepticism of Saudi physicians/pharmacists to drug promotion as well as their perception of the appropriateness of gifts and to check if they had any teaching/training about dealing with medical representatives (MRs) and Pharma promotion.
Results: Significantly more pharmacists than physicians (32% vs. 23%; p < 0.05) reported being taught or educated about the ethics of drug promotion. The experience level was significantly associated with the teaching or training that the physicians and pharmacists received. Conference registration fees and drug samples were the most appropriate promotional gift for the physicians (67% and 66%, respectively; p < 0.01) whereas for pharmacists, the drug sample was considered the most suitable donation (79%). More pharmacists perceived drug companies as a useful way to gain knowledge about drugs than physicians (75% vs. 65%; p < 0.01). A higher proportion of both groups were accepting drug promotion than those skeptical about it.
Conclusion: The majority of physicians or pharmacists participating in this study have received gifts from pharmaceutical companies. The drug samples and printed educational materials are the most widely accepted gifts. Recent graduates and those with few years of experience had higher teaching/training than experienced physicians and pharmacists in pharmaceutical promotion ethics and tactics to deal with MRs. On the other hand, experienced healthcare team were more approached and targeted by pharmaceutical companies and MRs. It is highly recommended to implement courses/discussion groups on the ethical interaction between healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies in the curriculum of both pharmacy and medicine. Updating the physicians and pharmacists after graduation, as part of continued medical/pharmacy education, will eventually improve the healthcare professionals' capability to act to the patients' welfare.
Keywords: Acceptance; Drug promotion; Education; Medical representatives; Pharmacists; Physicians; Saudi Arabia; Skepticism.