MedAdNews (and me) on restrictions on drug marketing

MedAdNews has a story (School’s Out) on how academic medical centers are restricting access to physicians and medical students by sales reps from pharmaceutical and device companies. The article contains the usual back and forth between industry, which claims they are educating physicians in ways that are useful for patients, and those on the other side who are concerned about conflicts of interest.

The author devotes a couple of paragraphs to my perspective: that shielding medical students from pharma reps is a bad idea:

Another potential problem with restrictive policies is that they shield medical students from one of the realities of their future careers’ relations, in one form or another, with industry. “Moves to remove students from contacts with pharmaceutical company marketing and sales representatives may seem like a good way to combat the problem,” says David Williams, a principal with the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry consulting company MedPharma Partners LLC ( “However, it won’t help and may even make matters worse once students leave med school and encounter the industry in their practices.”

Stanford’s policy attempts to address this concern academically. The policy mandates that all residents, trainees, and staff be educated about potential conflicts of interest in interactions with industry.

Rather than focusing on conflicts, though, Mr. Williams believes that schools should take a more positive angle. “My recommendation is that schools teach their students to do a better job of engaging with the industry,” he says. “This would include coursework on statistics (to evaluate drug reps’ claims), the economics of the pharma industry, the motivations and tactics of sales reps, and how to use the industry’s input for patients’ benefit.”

For Mr. Williams’ specific recommendations to medical schools on how to prepare students for relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, see the sidebar on this page.

The sidebar seems to be in an area of the site that’s restricted to subscribers, so you may not be able to access it.

March 12, 2008

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