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Drug salesmen may unduly influence your doctor

TORONTO, CANADA. Reports in the medical literature attest to the fact that information about drugs conveyed to physicians by pharmaceutical company representatives is often biased, inaccurate and unduly favourable to the drug being promoted. Unfortunately, it is also a fact that many doctors rely on this information when prescribing for their patients. It has also been shown that physicians' prescription practices can be influenced by gifts, all-expenses-paid symposia, and other incentives.

Because of these findings McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario decided in 1992 to restrict contact between residents (interns) and pharmaceutical company representatives. In particular drug salesmen were barred from attending educational events and from providing free lunches to residents. A survey of former McMaster residents and doctors who had graduated from the University of Toronto, which has no policy restricting contact, has just been completed. Although 88 per cent of all survey respondents reported that they had met with pharmaceutical company representatives over the past year there was a clear difference in how those meetings had influenced their prescription habits. Physicians trained under the policy restricting contact were 60 per cent less likely to find information from drug salesmen beneficial in guiding their practice.
McCormick, Brendan B., et al. Effect of restricting contact between pharmaceutical company representatives and internal medicine residents on posttraining attitudes and behavior. Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 286, October 24/31, 2001, pp. 1994-99

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