- BACKGROUND: Many health professional and regulatory groups have guidelines for identifying, disclosing and managing potential conflicts of interest (COI). The opinions of the Canadian public regarding what constitutes COI are unknown. METHODS: Bilingual telephone survey in all provinces using a validated questionnaire on public opinions on physician-pharmaceutical industry interactions (POPPII). Adults 18 years or older were contacted using random digit dialing (RDD) with representative national sampling of households. Results were analyzed for predictors of opinions and were compared with the reference COI guideline. Two follow-up focus groups were held. RESULTS: 1041 participants (56.8% female, mean age 52.6 years (SD 16.5), 18.2% francophone, 57.7% with post-secondary education) completed the survey. 34.0% reported a prior concern about physician-pharmaceutical industry relationships. Acceptability of interactions varied from high for requesting information about a particular drug or small gifts of obvious educational value to the patient, to mixed for free meals to listen to pharmaceutical industry personnel or payment to attend a conference, to low for research recruitment fees, personal use of medication samples or for using information not yet public about a new drug to make investment decisions. Age of the participant influenced ratings of acceptability. There was reasonable agreement (>60% participants) with only half of the related reference COI guideline statements. CONCLUSIONS: Public opinions on physician-pharmaceutical industry interactions differ depending on the scenario but suggest a significant level of concern regarding interactions involving direct financial benefit to physicians.