Medical Students

Get Industry Gifts

A medical student receives drug company gifts or attends industry-sponsored events an average of once a week, a study found.

About 80 percent of third-year students in a survey of eight medical schools said they felt "entitled" to handouts including meals, pens, parties and other events, researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Even more said they were asked by a physician to attend at least one industry-sponsored lunch. One-third said the gifts might influence their practice.

The results of the 64-question survey provide a glimpse of how drug companies reach out to future doctors. The industry spends $12 billion to $18 billion annually marketing to doctors and medical residents, according to market studies.

"Medical students, even before they are allowed to prescribe or are awarded an MD, experience these unrecognized influences of marketing by drug companies," said John L. Woodard, the senior author, an associate professor of psychology at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago.

Only 10 percent of medical schools have policies about drugmakers' interactions with their students, according to a second survey the researchers sent to all 126 medical schools nationwide.

FDA Clears Merck

Children's Vaccine

Merck & Co. said the Food and Drug Administration has approved its combination vaccine to protect children 1 to 12 years of age against measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.

The vaccine, called Proquad, which combines two established Merck vaccines, is the first approved in the United States to target all four diseases in a single shot, Merck said. It is also approved for use as a second dose of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

"The approval of Proquad makes it more likely that more children can gain protection against these four diseases because fewer shots can potentially mean better compliance," said Henry Shinefield, a clinical professor of pediatrics and dermatology at the University of California School of Medicine at San Francisco and a Proquad clinical investigator.

Tired Doctors May

Pose Driving Risk

Fatigue from hospital schedules can impair the driving ability of hospital residents and interns about as much as downing three or four vodka cocktails, researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In tests on a driving simulator, 34 doctors in training at Rhode Island Hospital crashed at about the same rate when they were sober and coming off "heavy night call" as when they were rested and moderately intoxicated, the research found.

"There's a risk to the resident doctors, and there's a risk to people that residents may crash into on the way home," Judith Owens, an associate professor of pediatrics at Brown Medical School in Providence and a co-author of the study, said in an interview.

Although there have been previous studies of work-related sleep loss in medical training, the new research is first to compare the effects to those of alcohol, Owens said.

Under national policies adopted in 2003, working hours in residency programs generally must not average more than 80 hours a week.

-- From News Services