According to an article by Jay S. Cohen, M.D. in the April 2007 MedicationSense
E-Newsletter , more and more reputable, world-class university medical schools are going “pharm-free” — prohibiting big pharmaceutical companies from influencing doctors with gifts of drugs, meals, advertising novelties and posters. Dr. Arthur Caplan, directory of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics, commented, “It was indisputable that small gifts had tremendous power in influencing favorable attitudes toward products.” Medical students have provided much needed impetus for the pharm-free movement.
The pharm-free movement hasn’t grown without opposition. Some medical schools have resisted imposing restrictions on drug company gifting because of concerns about retaliation by the drug industry. Pharmaceutical companies have a profound influence over continuing education for the medical industry. The drug industry’s presence at some medical conferences is so pervasive, sometimes it is hard to tell whether the conferences are medical meetings or pharmaceutical industry advertising conventions.
Most worrisome, drug companies will continue to use the medical journals as conduits for pushing products and obtaining free coverage in the media. The medical journals were once the repository of scientific thought and research. Now, the medical journals are having difficulty ensuring the accuracy and objectivity of many drug company studies that are published.