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GMS Z Med Ausbild. 2014 Feb 17;31(1):Doc10. doi: 10.3205/zma000902. eCollection 2014.

Conflicts of interest in medical school: missing policies and high need for student information at most German universities.

Author information

  • 1University Medical Center Mainz, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Mainz, Germany.
  • 2Westfälische Wilhelms-University of Münster, Münster, Germany.


in English, German


Medical students interact with pharmaceutical representatives already during medical school. The goal of this study was to find out: Do policies exist at German medical faculties that govern the interactions between medical students and pharmaceutical representatives, do schools offer courses on the subject and do students attend these courses? And What are the attitudes of medical students concerning the role of pharmaceutical companies in medical teaching?


All 36 German medical faculty deans and 1151 medical students at eight German universities were asked to complete a questionnaire of 4 and 7 questions, respectively, regarding the above mentioned topics.


30 (83.3%) deans and 1038 (90.3%) medical students filled in the questionnaire, respectively. According to the deans' answers, only one school had a policy concerning conflicts of interest and one had a policy governing the interactions between medical students and industry. 8 (26.7%) deans showed an interest in constructing a policy or educational an activity on this subject. 149 (14.4%) students had participated in an activity that focussed the subject of conflicts of interest and 779 (77.8%) wanted more education on the subject. 701 (73.4%) were opposed to an improvement of medical studies through financial support by pharmaceutical companies, whereas 216 (21.9%) were of the opinion that students should not meet with pharmaceutical representatives.


Unlike in other countries, like the US, most German medical faculties do not have policies that govern the interactions between medical students and pharmaceutical companies. Since most students want to be taught more about these interactions, the implementation of respective policies and lectures would be desirable.


Conflict of interest; independence; medical training; pharmaceutical industry; teaching

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