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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 13689

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Bhopal S, Chan J.
Does the relationship of pharmaceutical industry with doctors negatively affect patient health? The result
The Lancet Student Blog 2008 Apr 29

Full text:

What made 120 students stay late at University on a Friday evening last week? Well, Medsin-Leeds and PharmAware Leeds came together to put on a huge event, tackling a massive issue that managed to create a real buzz around the issue. The issue is that of pharmaceutical companies and their influence on doctor’s prescribing habits. To stimulate discussion and further exploration of this issue, the following motion was debated:

“The house believes the relationship between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry is detrimental to patient health”.

The event was introduced by Omar Jundi, PharmAware-Leeds co-coordinator. He explained that this is a large issue discussed by the profession and brought up often in medical journals etc. Four speakers, two for each side of the debate, had their say – and a lengthy, passionate question and answer session then ensued!

Various speakers spoke including the inspirational Peter Mansfield, physician from Australia and head of Healthy Skepticism. Issues of human nature and unintended biases were discussed, as well as how much of a cost of a drug actually goes into promotion and marketing. On the other side of the argument, some of the benefits of the relationship between the industry and the medical profession were cited to be access to unpublished data, postgraduate education and the stationary support to the NHS. The debate ended with an exploration of the boring side of attending drug lunches, but also the necessary networking opportunities between doctors that are provided by them. The last speaker advised that in a world of compromise, perhaps we need to “Keep our friends close, but our enemies closer”…

The event was a culmination of discussions on medical professionalism, and the wider duties of doctors, between Medsin Leeds, PharmAware Leeds, and Professor Trudie Roberts who is the Head of the School of Medicine. It was decided that it would be prudent for the School of Medicine at Leeds to declare it’s stance on the issue, and use the event to enrich the policy, considering the importance of the issue on the education of thousands of medical students in the UK.

At the ballot box, it was evident that the majority of students supported the motion. This means that the University of Leeds, School of Medicine has taken the first steps to forming policy on the interactions of the pharmaceutical industry and medical students. This could open up the way to becoming the UK’s first ‘PharmaFree’ medical school following the successful examples of Stanford and Penn State Universities in the USA.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening. It’s amazing to see so many students getting passionate about issues, such as these, that matter so much in our ability to care for our patients. It was fantastic to have students working alongside the Head of the School of Medicine, and we hope that this format can be exported to other medical schools. We’d be happy to help, just get in touch!

Although the subject remains complex as ever, we believe that getting students sensitized to the issues before they are exposed to day-to-day ethical dilemmas is more than a good thing – it’s our duty. Sunil Bhopal: and James Chan:


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