Gifts, drug samples, and other items given to medical specialists by pharmaceutical companies

Paul M. McNeill, Ian H. Kerridge, Catherine Arciuli, David A Henry, Graham J. Macdonald, Richard O. Day, Suzanne R. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


To ascertain the quantity and nature of gifts and items provided by the pharmaceutical industry in Australia to medical specialists and to consider whether these are appropriate in terms of justifiable ethical standards, empirical research and views expressed in the literature.

Design and Setting
Fifty-one medical Sydney specialists were asked to collect all gifts, offers, invitations, and items received from pharmaceutical companies in an eight-week period.

Main Outcome Measures
The items received were categorised as promotional/educational, drug samples, clinical practice aids, office gifts, personal gifts, and invitations; and were analysed in relation to the pharmaceutical industry Code of Conduct.

A large number (mean = 42/participant) and wide range of gifts and items were received. These included promotional/educational items (mean = 21), drug samples (mean = 8), office gifts (mean = 5) and personal gifts (mean = 1), clinical aids (mean = 3), and invitations (mean = 3) to meals, meetings, and conferences. Most gifts and items complied with the Code with a few breaches including offers of entertainment (sporting event and cabaret), items of high monetary value (in competitions with prizes unrelated to medicine), unbranded gifts, and promotional documents presented as journal articles.

Medical specialists received many gifts and items from pharmaceutical companies and a few that infringed the Code current at the time of the study. The findings were considered in the light of changes that have since been made to the industry Code of Conduct and professional medical guidelines on ethical relationships between physicians and the industry. In large measure, these changes are supported although some suggestions are made for stricter standards.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-148
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Bioethical Inquiry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


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