Purpose: To ascertain whether changes occurred in medical student exposure to and attitudes about drug company interactions from 2003-2012, which factors influence exposure and attitudes, and whether exposure and attitudes influence future plans to interact with drug companies.
Method: In 2012, the authors surveyed 1,269 third-year students at eight U.S. medical schools. Items explored student exposure to, attitudes toward, and future plans regarding drug company interactions. The authors compared 2012 survey data with their 2003 survey data from third-year students at the same schools.
Results: The 2012 response rate was 68.2% (866/1,269). Compared with 2003, in 2012, students were significantly less frequently exposed to interactions (1.6/month versus 4.1/month, P < .001), less likely to feel entitled to gifts (41.8% versus 80.3%, P < .001), and more apt to feel gifts could influence them (44.3% versus 31.2%, P < .001). In 2012, 545/839 students (65.0%) reported private outpatient offices were the main location of exposure to pharmaceutical representatives, despite spending only 18.4% of their clerkship-rotation time there. In 2012, 310/703 students (44.1%) were unaware their schools had rules restricting interactions, and 467/837 (55.8%) planned to interact with pharmaceutical representatives during residency.
Conclusions: Students in 2012 had less exposure to drug company interactions and were more likely to have skeptical attitudes than students in 2003. These changes are consistent with national organizations' recommendations to limit and teach about these interactions. Continued efforts to study and influence students' and physician role models' exposures to and attitudes about drug companies are warranted.