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David Healy, the controversial author of, inter alia, Pharmageddon rails against the credulity of many doctors in his latest blog arguing, for example:

Recent estimates suggest companies spend over $50,000 per annum on marketing to each and every doctor in the United States – possibly considerably over $50,000. Despite this, there is not a single medical course on earth that teaches doctors about pharmaceutical company marketing.

Is the highlighted claim correct? Is there no training in standard medical courses that helps doctors develop appropriate scepticism about claims made by pharmaceutical salesmen?

  • I would expect that to be a part of biomedical ethics class, which AFAIK is required in any med school. – vartec Jan 2 '14 at 12:18
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    @vartec I would expect it too. But my expectations and what happens in the real world don't often coincide. – matt_black Jan 2 '14 at 13:03
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Here is a recommended curriculum on that subject, published by the American Medical Student Association: Evidence and Recommendations for a Model PharmFree Curriculum

Here is the AMSA's advocacy web site on that subject: http://www.pharmfree.org/

I don't know to what extent they've been successful at introducing any such courses at medical schools.

The topic has been studied (see page 9 of the above document), for example in the following study.

An innovative approach to educating medical students about pharmaceutical promotion.

The authors describe an educational program, in which university pharmacists portrayed pharmaceutical company representatives to model a promotional presentation, that they designed to generate critical thinking among third-year medical students regarding the influence of pharmaceutical representatives on the prescribing practices of physicians. The authors also provide information suggesting that the program increased the uncertainty many students felt about the accuracy and ethics of standard drug "detailing."

If such a study counts as a "course" that shows that there has been at least one such course.

Googling suggests to me that the current formal "state of the art" is (mostly, merely) to ask medical schools to clarify their "conflict of interest" guidelines: http://www.amsascorecard.org/

  • Perhaps I should modify the question to ask how many doctors will have been exposed to such courses. – matt_black Jan 2 '14 at 13:05
  • There does seem to be, at least, some extra-curricular awareness of the phenomenon. – ChrisW Jan 3 '14 at 15:01

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