WEDNESDAY, March 6, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Many U.S. medical students and residents receive meals, gifts and industry-sponsored educational materials from drug companies, despite medical schools' efforts to restrict this type of contact, a national survey finds.
The poll of more than 2,000 medical students and residents from every medical school in the United States found that one-third of first-year students and more than half of fourth-year students and residents said they received drug-industry-sponsored gifts.
Most of the students said this interaction with drug companies provided them with valuable education, but the majority also agreed that these interactions opened them up to bias, according to the findings published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The survey also found that most of the respondents were in favor of steps to further reduce drug company sales representatives' access to medical school students and residents, said the researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
"In medical school and residency, as trainees are learning the fundamentals of their profession, there is a need to ensure the education they receive is as unbiased as possible," study co-leader Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, an internist and health policy researcher in the division of pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomics, said in a hospital news release.
"However, it is well known that promotional information and gifts from pharmaceutical companies can encourage non-evidence-based prescribing," Kesselheim added. "Though many institutions have tried to insulate trainees from these effects, trainees' exposure to industry promotion is still quite high."
Study co-leader and fourth-year medical student Kirsten Austad said, "medical schools and academic medical centers need to continue to work on separating students from industry promotion at this highly impressionable time in their professional development."
"As an alternative, medical schools should provide students with more education about how to interpret clinical trials and ways to approach evidence-based prescribing so trainees can learn to critically evaluate industry promotion when they become practicing physicians," she said.
The American Medical Association provides answers to frequently asked questions about doctors and ethics.