Premedical student exposure to pharmaceutical marketing: Too much, too soon?

Toby Keys, Mark Ryan, Sharon Dobie, David Satin, David Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Direct pharmaceutical marketing to physicians by pharmaceutical representatives is effective in changing behavior of health care providers, resulting in less evidence-based prescribing. Although much has been written about pharmaceutical marketing exposures among medical students, less is known about direct marketing exposures before students matriculate. This study examined the types of pharmaceutical representative direct marketing exposures for premedical students and where they occurred. METHODS: From June to August of 2017, researchers surveyed students who accepted admission to US public medical schools. These prematriculated students completed our survey just prior to matriculation. The survey inquired about whether the students were exposed to pharmaceutical marketing directly from pharmaceutical salespeople, the types of marketing they observed or received, and where these interactions occurred. RESULTS: Survey participants included 911 prematriculated students from 14 of the 188 medical schools invited to participate. Seventy-one percent (646) of the participants received or observed someone receiving pharmaceutical marketing gifts, small meals or snacks, articles, or samples. The two most common contexts for direct pharmaceutical marketing exposures were during shadowing experiences (54%, 346) and during employment (50%, 323). CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that it may be common for medical students to have interacted directly with pharmaceutical salespeople or observed other health professionals in these interactions before they matriculate in medical school. Because many of these interactions occur during clinical experiences required by institutions for admission, medical schools and premedical associations should consider delivering conflict-of-interest education early in medical school education or before students matriculate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)722-727
Number of pages6
JournalFamily medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
FINANCIAL SUPPORT: Financial support for this study was proved by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Foundation Project Fund-Humanities and Ethics Collaborative.

Funding Information:
the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine for financial support. They also thank the 14 medical schools that assisted with the coordination of the survey and the 911 premedical participants.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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