Exposure to the drug company marketing in Greece: Interactions and attitudes in a non-regulated environment for medical students

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Background Medical students are targeted by the pharmaceutical industry and are exposed to their marketing strategies even in the preclinical years of study. The marketing strategies used by pharmaceutical companies with physicians are also applied to students, affecting their future prescribing behaviour, and include low-cost non-educational gifts, travel expenses and conferences registration fees. In Greece, there are no national or institutional regulations and guidelines concerning drug company–medical student interactions. This study is the first time this estimate has been made in Greece and assessed a) the interactions between pharmaceutical companies and medical students, and b) students' attitudes towards pharmaceutical marketing. Methods A sampling of undergraduate medical students completed an anonymous, self-administered, web-based survey. The first part of the survey investigated the interaction between the students and pharmaceutical companies; the possible answers were the binomial variables ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The second part assessed the students' opinions of pharmaceutical company marketing and the answer options were ‘agree’, ‘don't know/don't answer’ and ‘disagree’. Results The survey was completed by 412 undergraduate medical students (mean age 22 ± 2.2 years, 52.7% were women); the overall response rate was 58.9%. Although the majority did not consider accepting gifts and meals from drug companies as ethical, most of them (59%) had accepted meals and low-cost non-educational gifts, especially the clinical-level students. Further, 52,6% of the students did not believe that accepting gifts from pharmaceutical companies would affect their own prescription behaviour, whereas surprisingly they held the opposite opinion of their classmates. The vast majority (85.9%) agreed that sponsored lectures were biased in favour of a company's products; however, 47.6% agreed that promotional material is useful for learning about new medications and 34.5% believed that medical schools should allow drug company representatives to interact with students. Conclusion Our results suggest that medical students in Greece are notably exposed to pharmaceutical industry marketing and their conflicting answers demonstrate that they are inadequately prepared for this interaction. Interventions are needed so that students are prepared and able to manage these interactions critically.




Filippiadou, M., Kouvelas, D., Garyfallos, G., Tsakiridis, I., Tzachanis, D., Spachos, D., & Papazisis, G. (2017). Exposure to the drug company marketing in Greece: Interactions and attitudes in a non-regulated environment for medical students. Annals of Medicine and Surgery, 19, 23–28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amsu.2017.05.013

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