Medical Students Oppose Big Pharma’s Influence on Campus

October 24, 2007
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors
ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

Medical students are participating in various activities this week to persuade medical schools to shield their campuses from the influence of pharmaceutical marketing as part of ?National PharmFree Week.?

Reston, VA (Oct. 22)-Medical students are participating in various activities this week to persuade medical schools to shield their campuses from the influence of pharmaceutical marketing. The activities are part of “National PharmFree Week,” an event sponsored by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA).

On Monday, Oct. 22, AMSA, the National Physicians’ Alliance, and the Prescription Project lobbied in support of Senate Bill 2029 on Capitol Hill. The legislation would require pharmaceutical companies to provide regular public reports of payments (including trips, honoraria, and entertainment) they make to physicians. The bill would also impose a fine on companies that fail to file reports.

The University of Illinois at Chicago will hold the “FLIP Symposium” on Saturday, Oct. 27. The symposium will provide medical students with skills to help them use critical thinking and examine evidence when prescribing medicines. Catherine DeAngelis, editor-in-chief of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), will be a guest speaker at the event.

According to JAMA, roughly 90% of the pharmaceutical industry's $21-billion marketing budget is directed at physicians. More than 90,000 pharmaceutical representatives visit US physicians and medical students, offering free lunches, gifts, promotional materials, and medication samples. The visits and gifts are intended to influence doctors’ prescribing habits.

“These marketing practices, including the growing number of ‘ask your doctor’ commercials, has led to overmedicating the US population,” says Michael Ehlert, AMSA’s national president. “By eradicating pharmaceutical marketing from all medical schools, hospitals, and academic medical centers, physicians will be able to go back to practicing evidence-based medicine,” he added.

Earlier this year, AMSA released its PharmFree Scorecard, which ranks medical schools according to their pharmaceutical policies.

AMSA is a student-governed, nonprofit organization founded in 1950 to represent medical students’ concerns. The group started its first PharmFree Campaign in 2002 to teach medical students to interact ethically with the pharmaceutical industry.

For more on S. 2029, see “Bill Calls for Disclosure of Drug-Company Gifts to Doctors,” and for the full text of the bill, click here.