Study: Med students cozy with pharma reps more likely to dole out branded drugs

Doctors aren't the only ones to fall prey to free lunches and fuzzy promotional talks. Medical students who spend more time with& pharma reps are more likely to dole out brand-name products, and less likely to rely on evidence when choosing which drugs to use, Medscape reports.

According to a study published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, physician trainees who interacted more with industry reps were 15% less likely to prescribe medications based on evidence. Researchers also found strong correlation between the amount of time students spent with pharma reps, and their odds in prescribing brand-name drugs.

In a survey of first- and fourth-year medical students and third-year residents, researchers asked how frequently the students had interacted with pharma reps in the previous 6 months, and how often they expected to interact with reps during their careers. The study also posed multiple-choice questions to the more advanced students about appropriate drugs for patients with common ailments.

As medical students became more experienced, they were twice as likely to use pharma reps as a source of drug information, researchers discovered. In an accompanying editor's note, Dr. Joseph Ross emphasized the importance of students developing good "habits of clinical practice" early on--in other words, making decisions based on training, not reps.

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