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July 9, 2003

A Social Science Perspective on Gifts to Physicians From Industry

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa.

JAMA. 2003;290(2):252-255. doi:10.1001/jama.290.2.252

A conflict of interest exists when a primary ethical or professional interest clashes with financial self-interest, a situation that arises commonly in medical practice. When physicians are remunerated for performing specific tests and procedures, they face a conflict of interest when they also recommend those same tests and procedures. When they are paid for referrals to clinical trials, physicians are in the conflicted position of deciding whether their patients are appropriate for the studies. Performing industry-supported research, physicians face an implicit demand for a positive finding to obtain further financial support. And, when pharmaceutical companies court high-volume prescribers, writing prescriptions becomes an act not only with financial and health consequences for patients, but also with financial consequences for the physician. This last source of conflict of interest is the central focus of this commentary.

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