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    Medical Schools Caution Students About Sales Pitches From Pharmaceutical Industry Representatives
Medical schools in several states are offering lectures and continuing education seminars that teach doctors and students to challenge pharmaceutical representatives' "sophisticated sales presentations," the AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. Critics say sales pitches "unduly influenc[e] how drugs get prescribed, sometimes to the detriment of the patient," according to the AP/Sun-Sentinel. Ethan Halm, an associate professor of medicine and health policy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said such classes at the university aim "to appeal to physicians' natural skepticism." Mount Sinai offers one training course that teaches students "how to effectively spar" with pharmaceutical company sales representatives played by actors, Halm said. The institution also offers courses that train doctors how to respond to patients who ask for drugs advertised on television. According to Halm, when physicians prescribe effective, lesser-known drugs, some patients believe they are receiving an inferior medication. Some of the programs are funded by a $430 million legal settlement over unlawful promotion practices by Pfizer. So far, the settlement has awarded $11 million to 28 institutions. This week, almost $2 million in grants were awarded to Mount Sinai; the University of Arkansas; Florida International University; the University of Minnesota; and the Institute of Medicine as a Profession, which is affiliated with Columbia University.

Adriane Fugh-Berman, an associate professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, said she received a hostile response after lecturing to fourth-year medical students about drug advertising, adding, "Physicians do not believe they are being affected by pharma. They say all the same thing: 'We are too smart to be bought by a slice of pizza.'" Jerome Kassirer, a professor at Tufts School of Medicine, said medical schools need to do more than lecture about the pharmaceutical industry's influence on physicians. Several medical schools -- including Stanford University, Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania -- have banned physicians from accepting gifts from drug makers. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America contends that drug sales presentations help physicians better understand the use, benefits and side effects of medications. Diane Bieri, PhRMA's deputy general counsel, said, "They are providing information that is both informative and important for physicians to know about new medicines" (Caruso, AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11/2).

"Reprinted with permission from You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

Publication Date: 2006-11-07 20:00

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