Public perceptions of physician - pharmaceutical industry interactions: a systematic review.
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BACKGROUND: Interactions between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry have led to concerns about conflict of interest (COI), resulting in COI guidelines that suggest a threshold beyond which interactions may be considered unacceptable. Guidelines have also outlined the importance of public opinion on the topic. Consequently, we conducted a systematic review to determine the Canadian public's opinions of physician-pharmaceutical industry interactions. METHODS: A systematic review of the standard health sciences literature as well as grey literature was conducted and a number of experts were contacted. Pre-determined eligibility criteria were used to identify appropriate studies. Meta-analysis of the study findings was not possible owing to the variety of methods of reporting outcomes, the types of interactions studied and the diversity of populations studied. RESULTS: No studies on Canadian opinions were identified. Ten international studies (n=13,637), seven with patient groups and three with public citizens, were identified that examined opinions on aspects of awareness, acceptability, disclosure and perceived effects of physician-pharmaceutical industry interactions. Heterogeneity was observed in the awareness, acceptability and perceived effects of physician-pharmaceutical industry interactions; however, there appeared to be greater acceptability and fewer perceived effects with smaller, less costly interactions that directly benefit patients or a medical practice. Desire for disclosure of these interactions was consistent across studies. INTERPRETATION: Research on the public's perception of physician-pharmaceutical industry interactions has been inadequate internationally and non-existent in Canada, and is urgently needed to help shape policies regarding potential conflict of interest.
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