This is the first survey of educational initiatives for pharmacy and medical students about drug promotion. Although the results are exploratory they do provide a snapshot of the types of education that are going on, the subject matter, techniques and aims.
Many medical and pharmacy educators recognize the need for education about drug promotion and have incorporated this topic into their work, often integrating it into curricula on therapeutics, pharmacology or professional ethics. However, often this is only a one to two hour lecture. In some cases this occurs with little support from colleagues or the educational institution. Opposition from other faculty members and the low priority allocated to this topic were frequently mentioned as barriers to success. Thus, many students are receiving minimal preparation for ethical and patient care choices they will face after graduation.
The lack of importance of drug promotion in medical and pharmacy education stands in stark contrast to the large volume of drug promotion targeting health professionals, and the body of empirical evidence indicating that promotion affects behaviours, health care quality and costs. Many of the survey respondents expressed frustration at the lack of importance allocated to drug promotion in health professional education, and expressed a desire to do more.