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No such thing as a free lunch, pen, folder, or bag

Students and doctors are at risk of being influenced by drug companies

  • By: Adam Jones
  • Published: 11 April 2012
  • DOI: 10.1136/sbmj.e1719
  • Cite this as: Student BMJ 2012;20:e1719

“You can borrow my pen, but make sure you give it back or I could lose my job.”

This was the curious remark of a drug company representative who had seen me fumbling for my biro. His company was sponsoring a lunchtime educational meeting at my primary care placement. Intrigued, I went on to quiz him in between mouthfuls of the organic crayfish and rocket sandwich that he had generously provided.

Apparently, the prohibition of giveaway pens is representative of progressive limitations in the way that the industry is allowed to promote its products. The exact rules on stationery distribution are complicated—reps can’t hand out such items, but can enclose them in packs given to delegates at conferences. These items may be branded with a company’s name but not with the names of their products. Other “freebie” promotional items may now be given to clinicians only if they are

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