CONFLICT OF INTEREST (COI) BETWEEN PHYSICIANS AND PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRIES: IT’S TIME TO ACT!
Increasing attention is being paid to the interactions between health professionals and the pharmaceutical industry, described as pervasive and potentially dangerous for patients, doctors and the larger society. These interactions are seen as problematic because “they have the capacity to cause harm” (Rodwin): in fact, they are highly likely to bias the judgment of physicians and can therefore pose a risk of harm to the patient and to society (i.e. through over-prescription of costly and often sub-optimal medicines). The conflict of interest (COI) between drug companies, whose primary aim is profit, and physicians, bond by professional ethics and duty to protect patients’ welfare, is charged for being the main responsible of these risks. Even though the issue has been acknowledged and well described in the scientific literature, studies have shown that physicians underestimate the influence that COI has on their professional decisions. Drug companies’ actions to affect doctors’ behavior and choices begin during medical school, continue through residency training and persist during their whole professional life.
As research and teaching Centre devoted to the protection and promotion of health, we strongly believe that all health professionals should be exposed to such issues during their training, and be prepared to respond appropriately to pharmaceutical marketing, ensuring that their own interaction with the industry meets a high ethical standard and is consistent with regulatory norms.
In the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Bologna, we set up various training and awareness-raising activities, based on the assumption that educating medical students from the very beginning of their career is crucial in order to prepare them as independent and committed professionals.
We would like to invite you to participate in our action to raise awareness about COI in your university. You can download a slide show to learn more about the issue and about our activities, as well as an annotated bibliography . They are open access tools with lots of great information that you can use to kickstart your action. If you want to know more or share your work, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .