Limiting the Influence of Pharmaceutical Industry Gifts on Physicians: Self-Regulation or Government Intervention?


Concerns over the influence of pharmaceutical gifts on physicians have surged in recent years. This has prompted wide ranging legislative proposals in numerous states and in the federal government as well as stepped up efforts at self-regulation by the pharmaceutical industry and the medical profession. Policymakers face the decision of whether to defer to self-regulation or support government intervention. This commentary describes efforts at self-regulation by the pharmaceutical industry and the medical profession. The author examines and critiques the wide ranging legislative strategies pursued to limit the influence of pharmaceutical gifts on physicians and concludes with suggestions for policymakers and the profession to limit influence and preserve public trust.

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The author thanks Kristin Madison, JD, PhD, Katrina Armstrong, MD, MSCE, and David Asch, MD, MBA at the University of Pennsylvania for their invaluable comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. The author takes full responsibility for the final version. Dr. Grande was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program while conducting the preliminary research for this manuscript. The sponsor did not have any role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; and preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest

Dr. Grande reports serving as a paid expert witness on behalf of the State of Vermont in a case concerning regulation of pharmaceutical marketing activities and serving as a voluntary member of the board of directors of the National Physicians Alliance. Dr. Grande reports no commercial conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to David Grande MD, MPA.

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Grande, D. Limiting the Influence of Pharmaceutical Industry Gifts on Physicians: Self-Regulation or Government Intervention?. J GEN INTERN MED 25, 79–83 (2010).

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  • medical professionalism
  • pharmaceutical marketing
  • conflicts of interest