Medicines are a vital part of improving and maintaining people’s health. Pharmacists, doctors and other healthcare professionals play a key role in ensuring medicines are properly prescribed—and used—rationally. Concerns exist, however, about the relationship between healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry—particularly the industry’s influence on decision-making in the dispensing and prescribing of medicines. Healthcare professionals are often exposed to pharmaceutical companies’ promotional messages. Pharmaceutical promotion carries a number of risks and has been associated with negative outcomes, such as higher prescribing frequency, costs, and lower prescribing quality. Not only might this result in patients receiving suboptimal care, promotion can contribute to escalating costs, thus threatening the sustainability of public healthcare budgets. Whilst exposure to pharmaceutical promotion often starts during medical training, students may receive little training about the effects of—and how to respond to—pharmaceutical promotion. This leaves future healthcare practitioners unprepared for ethically challenging situations that ultimately affect their ability to objectively prescribe—or advise patients about—medicines.

While there appears to be increasing awareness about the extent and effects of pharmaceutical promotion, recent research supported by Health Action International (HAI) shows that, in The Netherlands, explicit education on pharmaceutical promotion is barely addressed in the medial curriculum. These findings are in line with a previous international survey published by HAI and the World Health Organization. To help advance a reforming agenda, HAI organised the workshop ‘Education on pharmaceutical promotion in medical training’ on 7 September 2017 at the Vrij Universiteit Medical Centre in Amsterdam. The workshop was aimed at:

  • Identifying key barriers that prevent education on pharmaceutical promotion and conflicts of interest from being adequately addressed in the medical curricula;
  • Showcasing best practice examples of educational initiatives on pharmaceutical promotion;
  • Discussing best ways to structure teaching on promotion and conflicts of interest in the medical curriculum; and
  • Identifying driving forces that can contribute to policy change.

The workshop gathered 20 participants from medical and pharmacy faculties in The Netherlands and abroad, medical and pharmacy student associations, healthcare professionals, and HAI.

Workshop presentations and discussions helped to inform a report published by HAI on education about pharmaceutical promotion.

(Available) Workshop Presentations:

  1. Health Action International, Workshop on Education on Pharmaceutical Promotion in Medical Training
  2. Brian Tielrooij, Pharmaceutical Promotion in Medical (and Pharmacist) Training in the Netherlands: Readiness for Curriculum Change
  3. Association Nationale des Étudiants en Médecine de France (ANEMF), Educational and Awareness raising initiatives on promotion in France
  4. Pierre Frouard, Teaching pharmaceutical promotion in France
  5. Barbara Mintzes, Teaching on conflicts of interest: a student-led model