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Big Pharma Courts Med School Students

February 28, 2013 by  

Big Pharma Courts Med School Students

A new study explains why so many doctors adhere stringently to the Big Pharma-approved “treat the symptoms” school of medical thought. Even while they are still medical school students and residents, future healthcare providers are already commonly given meals, gifts and industry-sponsored educational materials by pharmaceutical sales representatives.

The study, conducted by students at Harvard Medical School in cooperation with the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, questioned 2,000 medical students and residents representing every medical school in the United States about encounters with Big Pharma sales representatives.

“In medical school and residency, as trainees are learning the fundamentals of their profession, there is a need to ensure the education they receive is as unbiased as possible,” said Aaron Kesselheim, an internist and health policy researcher at Brigham. “However, it is well known that promotional information and gifts from pharmaceutical companies can encourage non-evidence-based prescribing.  Though many institutions have tried to insulate trainees from these effects, trainees’ exposure to industry promotion is still quite high.”

The researchers asked the students about the frequency of their interaction with pharmaceutical representatives, the types of gifts pharmaceutical representatives gave them and whether they thought these interactions affected their learning.

One-third of the students in their first year of medical school reported receiving pharmaceutical industry-sponsored gifts, and more than half of fourth year students did. A majority of students reported that pharmaceutical representatives had helped them educationally, even though a majority of students also acknowledged the interactions opened them up to bias and should be limited.

“Medical schools and academic medical centers need to continue to work on separating students from industry promotion at this highly impressionable time in their professional development,” said Harvard Medical School student Kirsten Austad. “As an alternative, medical schools should provide students with more education about how to interpret clinical trials and ways to approach evidence-based prescribing so trainees can learn to critically evaluate industry promotion when they become practicing physicians.”

The study is published in The Journal of Internal Medicine.

Sam Rolley

Staff writer Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After learning about many of the biases present in most modern newsrooms, Rolley became determined to find a position in journalism that would allow him to combat the unsavory image that the news industry has gained. He is dedicated to seeking the truth and exposing the lies disseminated by the mainstream media at the behest of their corporate masters, special interest groups and information gatekeepers.

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  • Peter

    I applaud Sam for writing this, but it is very old news. This has been going on for a very long time, and unless there is a serious revolution toward natural health and health prevention, nothing will change.

    • GALT

      he’s a hack……the truth is out there… ain’t him.

  • Elected4Life

    My wife & I are fortunate to be patients of a local homeopathic doctor. In fact the only way he took me as a patient is by marriage to one of his patients as he’s not been able to accept new patients in decades. He doesn’t succumb to big pharma and one knows this immediately upon entering his office; No advertisements, No turnstile of sales people, No prescribing of only symptom relieving drugs, No lack of real long term cures including diet & exercise recommendations, No outsourcing for many in-office procedures, No tolerance for health abuse, etc. There should be more truthful and less indoctrinated physicians like him!

    • GALT

      Covered by your health insurance?

  • ibcamn

    You just now heard of this!!??!ii’m not a doctor and i know this!it’s just like football recrutement in high school!or pro ball teams going to collage.i dated a girl in school that couldn’t wait to get to collage so she could see who was going to show up and tell her what was the next big thing so her and her family could invest and become rich!or is this just the first time your telling the story cuz i’m sure other people know!

  • TheTruthHurts

    Very unethical, serious conflicts of interest…

    At least there’s one prof who’s been raising the alarm…


    The FDA has been in the line of fire for serious violations of its mission. The charge: Standing up for pharmaceutical profits rather than the health of those people who are using medicines.

    Under the FDA’s rule, pharmaceutical companies have become the most profitable industry on planet earth, but our health is not getting any better – rather the reverse.

    Every year, national budgets are straining to meet increasing costs of healthcare, much of which goes to expensive but evidently quite useless pharmaceuticals.

    The companies that produce patentable medicines have the FDA in their pockets. They control the agency that is supposed to oversee their operations. The tool: user fees, which pay much of the FDA’s budget, but which come with strings attached. The money may be used to expedite the approval of new pharmaceutical drugs but not to monitor their safety once they are on the market.

    Advertising of pharmaceutical drugs to the public is a peculiar U.S. phenomenon, which allows great expansion of pharmaceutical business by driving demand, but it also leads to waste and to the widespread use of dangerous drugs.

    New illnesses are invented, promoted and drugs to treat them are provided – all for the profit of an industry that seems to have thrown decency and morals out the window and set its course on dominating every aspect of our lives. Disease mongering is the term and the practice has been challenged, but is continuing.



    To give you an idea just how far Big Pharma has come over the last 75 years … in 1929, the average American received less than two prescriptions per year. By 2006, the average yearly prescription rate per person was:

    – Just over 4 prescriptions per child (age 0-18)
    – Almost 11 prescriptions per adult (age 19-64)
    – 28 prescriptions per senior (aged 65 and over)

    If these drugs did in fact treat and cure disease, the U.S. would have the healthiest residents on the planet! But far from it. We’re seeing ever-greater numbers of people suffering from preventable diseases like type II diabetes, and we’re seeing a mounting death toll directly attributable to prescription drugs. It’s good to remember this one thing: there is no disease caused by the lack of a drug, but plenty of problems come packaged with them.

    And Just How Bad Are the Death Tolls?

    Find out here:

  • GALT

    WOW….Rolley….you couldn’t provide a better link?

    Bullard is coming!!!!!!!!!!!

  • c m field

    Just so wrong on so many levels!!!


    I was a medical student at the University of Washington and there are strict policies about Pharm reps even being allowed in the buildings let alone interacting with students. All “gifts” to physicians, students or any staff (with the exception of leaving a handful of cheap pens or an outdated 25 cent pharmaceutical reference) of any kind were strictly prohibited.


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