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Views & Reviews No Holds Barred

Margaret McCartney: Forever indebted to pharma—doctors must take control of our own education

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h1965 (Published 13 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1965
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}margaretmccartney.com

As a student 20 years ago I failed to realise that the sandwiches at the lunchtime meetings were a lure, organised by the suited rep hovering at the back. Big pharma was ingrained throughout postgraduate education, and this continues even now. Every week I get invitations to local hotels with the offer of a buffet meal and a free talk from a local consultant, all organised and paid for by the drug industry.

But we know that doctors’ exposure to pharma sponsored literature is associated with higher prescribing frequency, higher cost, or lower prescribing quality.1 The money that industry spends on wooing doctors with free education is, of course, calculated to yield profitable returns.

Paying our own way would enable doctors to regain control. In recent …

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