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David Geffen School of Medicine
The Cutting Edge

Protecting Med Students from Influences of Pharma

THE DAVID GEFFEN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE at UCLA is one of only nine medical schools out of 149 to earn an “A” grade in a nationwide survey by the American Medical Students Association of educational policies governing students’ contact with the pharmaceutical industry.

“We are proud to be in the top 6 percent of medical schools addressing this important issue,” says Andrew Leuchter, M.D., associate dean. “It is crucial that our nation’s physicians be trained to make decisions in the best interests of their patients, free of influence from private industry.”

UCLA was one of the first U.S. medical schools to adopt tough industry-relations guidelines. In November 2006, UCLA prohibited all industry gifts to faculty, staff and students; banned industry advertising materials and sales calls in patient-care areas; and limited the use of drug samples to circumstances in the best interests of patients, such as cases of financial need.

In July 2007, UCLA’s guidelines were incorporated into the policy for the entire University of California system. In addition, UCLA now requires annual reporting by faculty members of all financial relationships with healthcare vendors.

Developed with the Pew Prescription Project, the 2009 scorecard evaluated each medical school’s policies in 11 areas, including restrictions on gifts, free meals and drug samples; paid promotional presentations; interaction with sales representatives; and industry-funded education. The results provide a school-by-school analysis of policies that govern the pharmaceutical industry’s interaction with faculty and students.

Pharmaceutical marketing to physicians has been estimated at up to $46 billion annually – roughly $35,000 per physician each year. Th ese figures do not factor in promotion by the medical-device industry. More than 100,000 pharmaceutical sales representatives visit U.S. doctors, often providing free lunches, gifts, drug samples and promotional medical literature.


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