Future doctors faced with the pharmaceutical industry

Publié le : 10 May 2013

 The French National Authority for Health has translated a guide of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on medical students. The objective, according to the HAS, is to distribute it to students “to develop their critical sense.”       

First observation: in many countries, students are in regular contact with laboratories.” Indeed, “the pharmaceutical industry has developed over a long time many ways of influencing the training of future doctors by setting up schemes such as ‘student of the year’ prizes, the provision of teaching aids, etc.”     
In France, a law passed in 2011 bans future doctors from “accepting any gifts from the industry.” Furthermore, this law “obliges [the laboratories] to make public all the agreements they establish with doctors and students,” to ensure transparency. In spite of this, “the exposure of students to the pharmaceutical industry is frequent, initiated early on and increasing in each year of study,” according to a thesis defended in April 2012 by Stéphanie Baron and Loïc Bourvon. “What we observe above all is that many students find these links with the firms to be natural and few criticize them,” explains Dr Baron.
In the light of this situation, Dr Emanuel Loeb, president of the national union of junior hospital doctors (ISNIH) relativises: “I don’t feel that junior hospital doctors are really a target for the labs, because they don’t write out the prescriptions.” Stéphanie Baron points out that ”the small favours granted by the firms create a climate favourable to the exercise of their influence.” The WHO guide clearly states that “gifts, even when of little value, induce doctors ‘to feel a sense of obligation to reciprocate’.”

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