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Effect of Exposure to Small Pharmaceutical Promotional Items on Treatment Preferences, May 11, 2009, Grande et al. 169 (9): 887

A new study finds that subtle exposure to branded pharmaceutical items, even without the social interactions of gifting, influence medical school student attitudes towards brands.  The study has some interesting discussion regarding “boomerang” response by some of the students from the institution that had strong rules prohibiting gifts.  This reaction may have some bearing on current efforts to ban gifts and marketing materials at healthcare institutions as well as the so-called “Sunshine Laws” at the federal and state levels regarding transparency of pharma and medical device marketing and financial arrangements, including gifting.

From the study’s commentary:

Our study finds that subtle exposures to branded pharmaceutical promotional items influences implicit attitudes of medical students toward pharmaceutical brands. The observed effect was modified by training year and school. Among third-year medical students, no significant experimental effects were observed. However, among fourth-year medical students there were significant effects at both schools in our study. Students at Miami responded as we hypothesized, shifting their preferences in the direction of the branding exposure (ie, Lipitor). However, students at Penn had a boomerang response, ie, a behavioral response opposite of the implied marketing intent.22 The most likely explanation for the difference across class year is that, as students advance in their training, they begin to form attitudes toward various treatment options that can be primed with branded promotional items. In comparison to third-year students, fourth-year students have had greater clinical experience and greater exposure to their clinical teachers and prevailing institutional practices.

The divergent effects at our 2 study schools are an interesting finding. At Penn, exposure to the branded items produced less favorable implicit attitudes. One potential explanation for this effect is that the strong school policy provided an external warning about specific persuasion tactics underlying pharmaceutical marketing. This information may have motivated some form of resistance by the audience23 that could have taken the form of simple message rejection or active counterarguing or careful message scrutiny.24 The policy therefore may have heightened the ability of the Penn students to exercise what has been termed “persuasion coping effectiveness”,25 which produces a goal within oneself to achieve one’s own current learning or attitudinal goal independently of what the marketer seems to be trying to accomplish. The differential attitudes observed in the marketing survey, with the Penn students exhibiting significantly more negative attitudes than those in the national sample or for the Miami students where no policy exists, support this explanation. At Miami, where students had more positive attitudes toward marketing, exposure to a branded promotional item likely primed more positive implicit associations.

via Arch Intern Med — Effect of Exposure to Small Pharmaceutical Promotional Items on Treatment Preferences, May 11, 2009, Grande et al. 169 (9): 887.

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Filed under: Conflicts of Interest, Health Law, , , ,

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