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Pharma Phacts FAQ

What are the ethical considerations?

The ethical considerations of medical student interaction with pharmaceutical companies have been discussed within the Medical Journal of Australia, while seeing the ethical implications of doctors interacting with pharmaceuticals quite clearly:

“The ethical bottom line is that this relationship can and does lead to harm to patients: at an individual level through inappropriate prescribing, and at a social level through the rising opportunity costs associated with the unwarranted use of more expensive pharmaceuticals.”

The ethics surrounding medical student interactions are not as clear given that medical students are not in the same position to prescribe at the moment of contact. The authors of this article raise some serious concerns regarding medical students, exploring the two scenarios of either medical students are not influenced by pharmaceutical companies or they are.

In the first scenario, if medical students are not influenced by pharmaceutical marketing, then they are accepting ‘something-for-nothing’, believing they are successfully exploiting a company for gain and normalizing the unequal relationship and a feeling of entitlement in our future doctors. In the second scenario, one of ‘something-for-something’ if students are fully aware that pharmaceutical companies’ gifts to doctors lead to inappropriate prescribing, and students accept that they are similarly likely to be influenced, then gift-taking involves a decision knowingly to compromise the interests of patients.

Pharmaceutical gift-giving engenders a feeling of goodwill towards the pharmaceutical industry and building of relationships which will certainly translate into future access and influence upon becoming doctors. The authors also raise the issue of potential silencing the young people who would normally become critics of the industry-professional relationship who have not yet accepted this behavior as “normal”.

Read the article here.

Wendy A Rogers, Peter R Mansfield, Annette J Braunack-Mayer and Jon N Jureidini, The ethics of pharmaceutical industry relationships with medical students, MJA 2004; 180: 411–414.



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Pharma Phacts are a medical student group committed to raising awareness about pharmaceutical companies and their interactions with medical students.