Interactions between pharmaceutical representatives and doctors in training

A thematic review
  • Daniella A. Zipkin
  • Michael A. Steinman
Clinical Review


OBJECTIVE: Medical school and residency are formative years in establishing patterns of prescribing. We aimed to review the literature regarding the extent of pharmaceutical industry contact with trainees, attitudes about these interactions, and effects on trainee prescribing behavior, with an emphasis on points of potential intervention and policy formation.

DESIGN: We searched MEDLINE from 1966 until May 2004 for English language articles. All original articles were included if the abstract reported content relevant to medical training and the pharmaceutical industry. Editorials, guidelines, and policy recommendations were excluded.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Contact with pharmaceutical representatives was common among residents. The majority of trainees felt that the interactions were appropriate. A minority felt that their own prescribing could be influenced by contact or gifts, but were more likely to believe that others’ prescribing could be influenced. Resident prescribing was associated with pharmaceutical representative visits and the availability of samples. A variety of policy and educational interventions appear to influence resident attitudes toward interactions with industry, although data on the long-term effects of these interventions are limited. Overall, residents reported insufficient training in this area.

CONCLUSIONS: The pharmaceutical industry has a significant presence during residency training, has gained the overall acceptance of trainees, and appears to influence prescribing behavior. Training programs can benefit from policies and curricula that teach residents about industry influence and ways in which to critically evaluate information that they are given. Recommendations for local and national approaches are discussed.

Key words

medical students interns and residents medical education drug industry 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Internal MedicineCalifornia Pacific Medical CenterSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Division of GeriatricsSan Francisco VA Medical Center and University of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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