Twenty-nine per cent of psychiatry trainees agreed that sales representatives have an important teaching role (although in the text this is described as ‘more than 40%’)4. Eighty per cent of the US emergency medicine chief residents thought that their residency programme benefited from interactions with sales representatives. Only six chief residents indicated very strong opposition to allowing residents to interact with sales representatives12. In Bucci and Frey’s study17 of US family practice residency programmes, 48.3% of programme directors felt that sales representatives were a valuable drug information resource for residents, and 55.1% felt they were valuable for practicing doctors.
In Dunn’s study of Ontario physicians, about 10% of doctors rated ‘pharmaceutical handouts’ as an important or very important continuing medical education resource (10.9% of primary care doctors and 12.2% of hospital-based specialists)15. Hayes et al.18 surveyed general practitioners in the UK about their involvement in and attitudes towards industry involvement in continuing medical education. They found that most GPs (90%) had had meetings at their practice for which pharmaceutical companies organized the educational content. The characteristic of these which was most disliked, particularly by trainers and those in practice for more than eight years, was the promotional aspect.
CONCLUSION: The studies reported here all ask quite different (and relatively useless) questions. Opinions about the value of sales representatives are mixed; again differences may have resulted from the way in which the question was framed, and more research would be needed to clarify this.