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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

UC Davis achieves top marks for its drug company policies

Photo of medical students The new rules at UC Davis are aimed at reducing the influence drug marketing can have on current and future physicians and other medical staff.

Grades are always important in school, especially in medical school. That's why a recent “A” grade for the UC Davis School of Medicine was a proud accomplishment for its students.

UC Davis has been recognized as one of only six medical schools in the entire nation that earned a top grade from the American Medical Student Association for developing strict rules against drug-company marketing practices.

The national association handed out “PharmFree Scorecards” this year as part of a campaign to encourage medical schools and academic medical centers to develop policies limiting access for drug companies and prohibiting medical students and physicians from accepting gifts of any kind from company representatives.

Thanks in part to its medical students in Sacramento, UC Davis Health System has now established tough new guidelines that will ban employees and students from accepting free drug samples, food, beverages, pens, notepads and other marketing items. It also bans sales representatives from serving in preceptorships at the health system. Preceptor-ships allow drug company employees, for a fee, to accompany doctors during patient visits, providing the opportunity for the representatives to deepen their relationships with physicians.

Photo of Ann Madden Rice"A clear and thoughtful policy defining and restricting drug company activities provides a crucial ethical and practical foundation for everyone who works at our medical center. We don't want anyone, especially our patients, to feel that our course of treatment is ever influenced by marketing or personal gain."
— Ann Madden Rice, UC Davis Medical Center CEO

The new rules at UC Davis are aimed at reducing the influence drug marketing can have on current and future physicians and other medical staff.

Ann Madden Rice, chief executive of UC Davis Medical Center, credits the medical students for developing the new guidelines, which go into effect July 1 throughout the health system.

"A clear and thoughtful policy defining and restricting drug company activities provides a crucial ethical and practical foundation for everyone who works at our medical center,” said Rice. “We don't want anyone, especially our patients, to feel that our course of treatment is ever influenced by marketing or personal gain." Around the country, six schools received a grade of “A,” which means that the school has a comprehensive policy that restricts pharmaceutical company representatives' access to both medical school campuses and academic medical centers. In addition to UC Davis, the other schools receiving top marks were Stanford University School of Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, University of Pennsylvania Medical School, University of Vermont College of Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine.

Many other schools have more limited guidelines. Harvard Medical School, for example, could only achieve a “C+” because it lacks a formal policy, although it does restrict pharmaceutical company representatives from working on its campus. The most common grade, however, was an “F,” which went to schools that failed to even address the issue.

UC Davis Health System's prohibition against receiving drug samples and gifts goes beyond a proposal published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The UC Davis policy exceeds recommended guidelines because it includes a ban on preceptorships, which have long been popular marketing techniques for pharmaceutical sales representatives.

Targeting physicians with everything from expensive meals and sports tickets to exotic locales has come under scrutiny in recent years for its impact on physician prescribing habits. According to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly 95 percent of U.S. physicians have accepted gifts from drug companies, which usually come in the form of free food or drug samples.

The national medical students association plans to publish a new Scorecard each year as medical schools and academic medical centers continue to reevaluate and establish comprehensive policies for drug company activities. Its scorecard will include enhanced metrics and include partner involvement to reflect the growing PharmFree movement.