Attitudes Towards Conflicts of Interest in Medical Research: A Survey of US Medical Students

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Medical Science Educator


Industry funds nearly two-thirds of US healthcare research, and industry-sponsorship may produce more favorable research results and conclusions. Medical students report feeling inadequately prepared to avoid negative industry influence. Research of educational interventions that educate students on the potential effects of industry influence is lacking, and no interventions have demonstrated long-term benefit. Surveying and assessing student opinions of the relationship between industry and research may help improve future educational interventions. We surveyed preclinical and clinical students at seven US medical schools regarding their attitudes towards industry conflicts of interest (COIs) in medical research. A total of 466 medical students including 232 preclinical and 234 clinical students completed the survey. Of those who had research experience, clinical students were more likely than preclinical students to look for COIs (62.0% v 45.9%, p = .014) and to consider whether author COIs are pertinent to the article (68.1% v 54.1%, p = .023). Many disagreed that they felt adequately educated on the issue of COIs (42.7%), but most agreed that medical school should take a role in guiding student interactions with industry (65.0%). Students responded that all listed financial relationships between industry and investigator, except for providing food and/or beverage, would likely bias the investigator’s research. Many students feel inadequately educated on industry issues in biomedical research, and most believe medical schools should help guide interactions with industry. Our findings support further development of educational interventions that prepare students to navigate the relationship between industry and medical research during and after medical school.



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industry, medical school, conflict of interest