OBJECTIVE: To compare physicians’ and their patients’ attitudes toward pharmaceutical gifts.
DESIGN: Survey of physicians and their patients.
SETTING: Two tertiary-care medical centers, one military and one civilian.
PARTICIPANTS: Two hundred sixty-eight of 392 consecutively surveyed physicians, 100 of 103 randomly selected patients at the military center, and 96 patients in a convenience sample at the civilian center completed the survey.
MEASUREMENTS: Participants rated 10 pharmaceutical gifts on whether they were appropriate for physicians to accept and whether they were likely to influence prescribing. Patients found gifts less appropriate and more influential than did their physicians. About half of the patients were aware of such gifts; of those unaware, 24% responded that this knowledge altered their perception of the medical profession. Asked whether they thought their own physician accepted gifts, 27% said yes, 20% no, and 53% were unsure. For patients, feeling that gifts were inappropriate was best predicted by a belief that gifts might influence prescribing, while for physicians, the best predictor was knowledge of guidelines.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients feel pharmaceutical gifts are more influential and less appropriate than do their physicians. Physicians may want to consider this in deciding whether to accept particular gifts. Broader dissemination of guidelines may be one means of changing physician behavior. At the same time, future guidelines should further consider the potentially different viewpoints of patients and physicians.