The delivery of modern health care entails significant involvement from the pharmaceutical industry, including developing and manufacturing drugs. However, the industry also has tremendous influence on the practice of medicine through its considerable marketing efforts, both to patients through direct to consumer advertising, and to physicians through detailing, providing samples, continuing medical education, and other efforts. This article will review the role that pharmaceutical marketing plays in health care, and the substantial evidence surrounding its influence on patient and physician behaviors, with additional discussion of the medical device industry, all with particular attention to women’s health. Understanding the effects of pharmaceutical marketing on women’s health, through discussion of relevant examples—including oral contraceptive pills, drugs for premenstrual dysphoric disorder, Pap smear cytology techniques, and neonatal herpes prophylaxis—will help ensure that women receive unbiased, evidenced-based care. We will conclude with a discussion of guidelines that have been proposed by professional organizations, policy makers, and universities, to assist physicians in managing exposure to pharmaceutical marketing.
Target Audience: Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Family Physicians
Learning Objectives: After completion of this article, the reader should be able to identify ways that pharmaceutical marketing can impact clinical care, modify their own personal involvement with pharmaceutical marketing if necessary to avoid conflicts of interest, and illustrate particular vulnerabilities in women’s health with respect to pharmaceutical marketing.