Medical students are entering an environment with progressively fewer boundaries between medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, which spends $12 billion to $18 billion annually marketing to physicians, according to background information in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Frederick S. Sierles, M.D., of the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, North Chicago, Ill., and colleagues measured the frequency of medical students’ exposure to drug company gifts, students’ attitudes about gifts, and correlates of these frequencies and attitudes.

The researchers found that average exposure for each student was one gift or sponsored activity per week. Of respondents, 93.2 percent were asked or required by a physician to attend at least one sponsored lunch. Regarding attitudes, 68.8 percent believed gifts would not influence their practices and 57.7 percent believed gifts would not affect colleagues’ practices. Of the students, 80.3 percent (553/604) believed that they were entitled to gifts. Of 183 students who thought a gift valued at less than $50 was inappropriate, 86.3 percent had accepted one.

59.6 percent of the students simultaneously believed that sponsored grand rounds are educationally helpful and are likely to be biased. Students at one school who had attended a seminar about drug company–physician relationships were no more likely than the non-attending classmates to show skepticism. Of the respondents, 85.6 percent did not know if their school had a policy on these relationships. In a national survey of student affairs deans, among the 99 who knew their policy status, only 10.1 percent reported having school-wide policies about these interactions.; Source: American Medical Association (AMA)