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Promotional giveaways may influence doctors decisions

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Exposure to small promotional items from drug companies, like clipboards and notepads, appears to influence medical students’ unconscious attitudes, according to a recent experiment by the University of Pennsylvania. Students in the study who were unknowingly exposed to small branded promotional items for the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor, were more likely to favor the drug over a generic alternative than those who were not exposed to promotional items. (Photo: Flickr/fitziane)


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Robert Field is a professor of health policy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. He says while doctors’ opinions might be influenced by different factors, drug companies wouldn’t be providing the promotional items if they didn’t think they had an effect.

Field: When you are a patient you are buying a product or a service, and like with all products and services, the rule is let the buyer beware. Now that’s tougher when you are a patient and you don’t know all the ins and outs and you want to rely on your doctor for the best impartial advice. But doctors are human.

Field says it’s up to patients to ask about side effects, and whether a generic drug is available.

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