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To heck with negative publicity! Doctors still dig those drug-company freebies

June 22, 2010 | 12:10 pm

Doctor The public may have begun to raise a collective eyebrow at the largesse offered to doctors from drug makers and medical device manufacturers. Even the companies themselves have started to acknowledge the potential conflict of interest, or the perception of it. Medical schools too have begun to take a harder line on the matter. But individual doctors? They still kind of like this whole gift-giving, or rather, gift-getting practice.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine surveyed doctors and medical students there to assess their opinions of industry interactions, gifts and the appropriateness of such things. True, the results are a reflection only of doctors and medical students at that institution, but the data offer a snapshot of how perspectives can vary, by specialty, by training level, by type of gift.

Overall, surgeons were fairly enthusiastic about relationships with drug and device manufacturers; pediatricians ... not so much. Here's the full doctors-and-gifts study.

The researchers write in their conclusion:

"Our overall finding of favorable physician attitudes toward industry suggests that individual physicians may be out of synch with trends among medical schools and public opinion and even industry itself. Although the evidence that physician-industry marketing relationships result in patient harm is inconclusive, US medical schools have increasingly adopted restrictive policies toward industry interactions, and there is widespread public concern that financial relationships between physicians and industry lead to conflicts of interest."

Here are two stories that provide a fuller examination of the broad issue: Doctor, Just a Little Something for You and And Now, There's a Growing Push for Reform.

Plus, a look at what medical schools are doing, A Pox on Drug Maker Freebies, Say Some Doctors, and the beginning of drug company pullback, Eli Lilly to Disclose Payments to Doctors.

Of note, this new survey found that most respondents believed other doctors were more likely to be swayed by such gifts than they themselves were.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo illustration credit: Myung J. Chun

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