Previous surveys on the relationship between physicians and pharmaceutical representatives (PRs) have been of limited quality. The purpose of our survey of practicing physicians in Japan was to assess the extent of their involvement in pharmaceutical promotional activities, physician characteristics that predict such involvement, attitudes toward relationships with PRs, correlations between the extent of involvement and attitudes, and differences in the extent of involvement according to self-reported prescribing behaviors.
Methods and Findings
From January to March 2008, we conducted a national survey of 2621 practicing physicians in seven specialties: internal medicine, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology, psychiatry, and ophthalmology. The response rate was 54%. Most physicians met with PRs (98%), received drug samples (85%) and stationery (96%), and participated in industry-sponsored continuing medical education (CME) events at the workplace (80%) and outside the workplace (93%). Half accepted meals outside the workplace (49%) and financial subsidies to attend CME events (49%). Rules at the workplace banning both meetings with PRs and gifts predicted less involvement of physicians in promotional activities. Physicians valued information from PRs. They believed that they were unlikely to be influenced by promotional activities, but that their colleagues were more susceptible to such influence than themselves. They were divided about the appropriateness of low-value gifts. The extent of p...