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drug company funding of med student academic/social events

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atsai3

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So we're (students, and student council) are trying to decide whether or not to obtain funding from drug companies for academic (e.g., pharmacology lectures, board review for biochemistry, etc) or social (e.g., "Pfizer Night at Boston Billiards!") events. I have two questions for SDN'ers:

1) Do you think this is appropriate? For social or academic-type events? Why or why not? (I'm interested especially in the "why not" comments.)

2) Are drug companies involved in sponsoring events for students at the medical school you attend? I'm interested specifically in whether or not they fund events for first or second year students -- e.g., orientation events, giving out pharmacology textbooks, free drink nights, etc. (Drug company presence seems to be ubiquitous on the wards -- if they treat residents or attendings, third year and fourth year students are right there beside them.)

Thanks,
-a.
 

sadie

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No, I don't think this is appropriate at all, and it's probably even less appropriate for social events than for academic events where at least some information about the drug changes hands. Basically, drug companies sponsor these events in order to get students/physicians to prescribe their particular drug, whether or not it's the best or most cost-effective drug for a particular patient. And studies have shown that these advertising efforts do in fact affect precribing behavior (see http://www.nofreelunch.org/factsfallacies.htm for some references).

When it comes to events for 1st and second year students, it seems to me to be even more blatant advertising without any useful information about drugs changing hands, as most first and second years don't need this specific information about various medications and can't ask intelligent questions about them, and are just likely to remember the name of such-and-such H2 blocker because it was on the paper plates at their free pizza dinner.
That said, my school does not have any prohibition against drug company funding of pre-clinical year activities although there was enough protest that we were able to keep our formal dance from being sponsored by drug companies. I only know of a few events like this, mostly arranged by a particular professor or two, but they aren't prohibited and are pretty well attended.
 

Zeffer

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Drug companies are a business out to make a profit, plain and simple. Why should they not be able to market their product any way they see fit.

The doctor has the final responsibilty to prescribe the drug that the patient will use. If they see no difference between two drugs for a patient then who cares what they prescribe.

Yes this issue is much bigger than I make it seem, but I don't feel like typing any more.

Now let the flamming begin.
 

mpp

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Drug companies have sponsored events open to all medical students at my school. However, I have not seen a single advertisement or even mention of any drugs thus far. Usually there is just a quick mention "we'd like to thank so and so company for sponsoring this event." Seems fairly harmless to me at this point.
 

Hero

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I don't think there's anything wrong with drug companies sponsoring things for med students. Free lunches are great. During the internet boom, I made a couple thousand from alladvantage, echo, and several other ad services. I also got a lot of free electronics, shirts, etc. (good old days *sigh*)

This of course was unwise business, but to me, i see no difference with drug companies that hand out free things/services.

I'll definitely benefit but whether they will benefit or not will depend on the quality of their product.
 

none

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I'm not sure why you're most interested in the negative comments. Advertising is not some purely evil force. Products do not sell themselves and the chance of you missing out on it from the medical journals is quite high. I think it's really a great idea and would foster discussion of the company/drug amongst people present.
 

Burton

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Originally posted by Zeffer
Drug companies are a business out to make a profit, plain and simple. Why should they not be able to market their product any way they see fit.

The doctor has the final responsibilty to prescribe the drug that the patient will use. If they see no difference between two drugs for a patient then who cares what they prescribe.

Yes this issue is much bigger than I make it seem, but I don't feel like typing any more.

Now let the flamming begin.

Patients are not typical consumers. They cannot make their drug choice for themselves; we have that responsibility. And we have a fiduciary duty to our patients to act in their best interest. Because we are all human, we should not welcome bias where it does not already exist.

Already, all the noon conferences I go to are sponsored by drug companies, and although I make an effort to maintain my objectivity, I'm sure that I am still influenced. Not everyone even makes this effort. I think it's best to hold yourself above reproach and not get involved with drug companies.

Just my opinion.
 

cchoukal

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I agree with the above; research (see the nofreelunch.org website) suggests that, no matter how objective we think we are, we are influenced by pharma marketing. I used to interview physicians on the topic for a living, and they would often admit that if they had a better relationship with drug rep X than drug rep Y (based in part on the types of things the rep would do for the physcian; yes, they admit this), they'd be more likely to prescribe rep X's product. Sure that's fine if the two are equivalent, but that's not always true.

Is advertising evil? No, but by letting reps pay for stuff, we run the risk of losing objectivity. Will this kill anyone? Probably not. Will it compromise care for some? Maybe. Will it make some of us ****** to the pharma companies? You bet. Is it worth it for a few free lunches? That's up to each of us.

But don't get me wrong; the pharma companies aren't responisble for this. They're just trying to make a buck like anyone, and we couldn't practice much medicine without them. The problem, I think, is that we let ourselves be sold out for a few pens and lunches.
 

Kosmo

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Some good responses to this post.

My feeling is that the phenomenon of Pharm companies courting physicians/medical students is a natural effect of a 'free-market' system that requires the physician as middleman in peddling their product.

Drug companies are at the mercy of physicians for distibution of their product, so isn't it natural that the physicians become a primary target of the marketing department?

Ultimately it is up to the particular physician how they will treat his/her patient, which is why it is NOT inherently unethical for Pharm companies to cater to them. If a physician feels that he/she cannot remain objective in the face of corporate schmoozing, then it is his/her responsibility to avoid it.
 
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