oa Southern African Journal of Anaesthesia and Analgesia - The opinion of patients at a local South Africa teaching hospital on physician-industry relations : original research

Volume 19, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 2220-1181
  • E-ISSN: 2220-1173



This study aimed to determine how South African patients at a regional state hospital perceived the practice of physicians accepting gifts from the pharmaceutical industry. The physician-patient relationship is built on trust, with an understanding that the physician will act ethically and in patients' best interests. This trust is violated when physicians make patient management decisions that are motivated by a desire for personal gain. Gift giving is a technique that is commonly used by the pharmaceutical industry to influence physician prescribing and procurement practice.

This was an observational, cohort study that used a questionnaire among postoperative patients.
Written informed consent was obtained from 200 postoperative adult patients at Grey's Hospital, Pietermaritzburg.
Patients' opinions regarding physician-industry relations focused on four main areas: acceptability of gift giving, the monetary value of gifts, patient knowledge of physicians' involvement with the medical industry, and the perceived potential influence of gifts on physicians decision-making.
Sixty-two per cent of patients felt that it was unacceptable for physicians to accept a gift from a pharmaceutical company, and 80% believed that doctors were influenced by accepting gifts. Eighty-one per cent of patients preferred to be cared for by a doctor who had no relationship with, or did not accept gifts from, pharmaceutical companies.
The majority of patients in this study do not agree with the practice of gift giving, particularly when it led to personal gain for the physicians. Patients believed that when physicians accepted gifts it influenced their decision-making, and indicated that they would prefer to be cared for by physicians without ties to the medical industry.

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