However, in their survey of 301 resident physicians, they found that "reminding physicians of sacrifices made in obtaining their education" resulted in gifts being evaluated as more acceptable: 21.7% in the control group vs. 47.5% in the group who "reminded" were more accepting of receiving gifts.
Financial self-interest may not "fully explain physicians’ acceptance of gifts," said the researchers from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Rather, well-intentioned physicians may use rationalizations—subjective perceptions of hardships to accept "potentially biasing gifts."
Making conflict-of-interest disclosures is important to consumers, Rothman says, as evidenced by a recent Consumer Reports survey that found that nearly half of the patients questioned thought that gifts from pharmaceutical companies influenced their physicians' choices of medications.
But it's important as well to healthcare leaders. "What is certain is that colleagues need to know—whether you're making appointments to formulary committees, to lecture assignments, to medical students, or training residents or [making] decisions on publications," he says.
"It's a little bit of a pain in the neck" now to go to separate company sites to verify information, he says. While having an aggregated and more searchable site is still a few years off, Rothman advises: "Sure, trust your colleagues—but verify."