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Relationships between the medical profession and the drug industry are often highly visible these days, thanks to sustained attention from the medical and scientific media. Despite the critical spotlight, such relationships are almost universal among American doctors, according to a large survey.
Out of 1662 respondents, 94% reported associations with the drug industry, usually related to free food, drink, or drug samples. Some had also received expenses for attending meetings (35%) or payments for consulting, lecturing, or enrolling patients in trials (28%). Cardiologists were significantly more likely than other hospital specialists or primary care doctors to receive payments for professional services, possibly because drug companies target doctors whose prescribing habits are likely to influence others, say the researchers.
When asked how often they met with drug company representatives, primary care doctors reported 16 meetings a month, internists had 10, cardiologists nine, and anaesthesiologists two. Seven years ago, the average was about four.
This survey had a response rate of only 52% (1662/3167), and those who did reply probably under-reported the extent of their links with industry, say the researchers.