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GMS J Med Educ. 2017 Aug 15;34(3):Doc37. doi: 10.3205/zma001114. eCollection 2017.

Conflicts of Interest in Medicine. A Systematic Review of Published and Scientifically evaluated Curricula.

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Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts, Klinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Mainz, Deutschland.


in English, German

Objective: Conflicts of interests resulting from interactions with pharmaceutical companies are pervasive in medicine and can result in an undue influence on physicians' decision-making. The objective of this systematic review is to analyze published and scientifically evaluated curricula for medical students and residents regarding such conflicts of interest. We begin by describing the covered topics and teaching methods; afterwards we analyze the quality of the curricula using the published data on their evaluations and comparing the content with content recommended for such curricula. Methods: We searched Pubmed, PsycInfo, EMBASE, OECD, WISO, SOWI and googlescholar up to and including the 5th of September 2016. Publications describing curricula for residents or medical students on the topic of conflicts of interest in medicine and evaluating them for their effects on the participants' learning were included. We analyzed the covered topics and the teaching methods used and compared them with recommendations by the American Medical Students' Association (AMSA) and Health Action International (HAI). Results: The literature search resulted in 20 publications that fulfilled our search criteria. In five trials, a control group was used, in no trial the participants were randomized to intervention or control group. 16/20 published curricula primarily covered marketing strategies by pharmaceutical companies, especially the interaction with pharmaceutical sales representatives (PSRs). Most curricula only covered a limited number of topics recommended by AMSA/HAI. The most frequent teaching method was a group discussion, which was used in 18/20 curricula; all curricula used at least one interactive teaching method. The evaluation of the curricula was heterogeneous in results as well as design. Some publications described a change of attitudes toward a stronger skepticism regarding interactions with pharmaceutical companies. Four publications described improved knowledge, one publication described a change in behavior toward a reduction of the acceptance of gifts. Conclusion: The trials conducted to this date regarding curricula on conflicts of interests are methodologically flawed and the described curricula lack important topics beyond marketing strategies of pharmaceutical companies. In addition, there are no data so far on the sustainability of the courses' effects on participants' behavior. It is therefore necessary to develop a model curriculum that covers a broader variety of topics and to evaluate it using a well thought-out methodology to create a foundation for the further improvement of teaching conflicts of interest in medicine.


Advertising as Topic; Conflict of Interest; Curriculum; Drug Industry; Medical Education; Medical/Psychology Students

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