Open Access Research article

Attitudes of medical students towards incentives offered by pharmaceutical companies- perspective from a developing nation- a cross sectional study

Usman Tariq Siddiqui1*, Amarah Shakoor1, Sarah Kiani1, Farwa Ali1, Maryam Sharif1, Arun Kumar1, Qasim Raza1, Naseer Khan1, Sardar Mohammed Alamzaib1 and Syed Farid-ul-Husnain2

Author Affiliations

1 Medical student, Medical College, Aga Khan Medical University Hospital, P.O Box 3500, Stadium Road, Karachi, Pakistan

2 Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan Medical University Hospital, Karachi, Pakistan

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BMC Medical Ethics 2014, 15:36  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-36

Published: 5 May 2014



A training physician has his first interaction with a pharmaceutical representative during medical school. Medical students are often provided with small gifts such as pens, calendars and books, as well as free lunches as part of drug promotion offers. Ethical impact of these transactions as perceived by young medical students has not been investigated in Pakistan before. This study aimed to assess the association of socio-demographic variables with the attitudes of medical students towards pharmaceutical companies and their incentives.


As part of a cross-sectional survey, a validated questionnaire previously used for assessing attitude of medical students towards pharmaceutical industry, was modified, pre-tested and distributed among consenting clinical year students at DUHS and AKU. Questions included acceptability of pharmaceutically sponsored gifts, events and tuition fee, and their impact on future prescription. Responses were graded as agree, disagree or neutral which were then scored according to the AMSA guidelines of ethical conduct.


Out of a total of 353 targeted students 303 responded, corresponding to a response rate of 85.8%. Responses indicated that 42.7% students believed in no interaction with drug companies during medical school. However, 81% of students favored pharmaceutical sponsorship of student-body events/seminars at medical colleges. More than one-third of the students were comfortable receiving gifts from drug companies. Overall, the results of this study offer an interesting comparison between the students of a private medical school (AKU) and a public medical school (DUHS); AKU students exhibited a greater degree of mistrust towards drug information provided by pharmaceutical companies compared to DUHS students (pā€‰=ā€‰0.040). Furthermore, when asked if there was a need to incorporate guidelines in the undergraduate curriculum with regard to interaction with drug companies, 84.2% students at AKU agreed, compared to 54.9% at DUHS. Medical student Attitude Scores are more or less similar to each other independent of their various demographical differences.


This study highlights that medical students in our population have a high level of acceptability towards incentives offered by pharmaceutical industry and that formal guidance regarding the subject should be incorporated into medical curriculum.

Pharmaceutical companies; Acceptability; Incentives; Attitudes; Medical students